Appalachia Wildflowers & Trees Of Appalachia

Plentiful Beech Trees

Beech leaves on tree

Over the weekend we went on a hike with friends. It was a beautiful day to be in the woods.

wildflowers in bloom

The trout lilies are just beginning to bloom and the sarvis trees were shining white across the mountains.

I was awe struck by the numerous beech trees we saw. If an area has ever deserved the name of Beech Cove or Beech Holler it was surely that land.

beech tree leaves shining

This time of the year beech trees are easy to spot in the woods. Their leaves from last summer are still hanging on even though Spring and new growth is just around the corner. The papery tanish goldish leaves stand out in the open woods like left over Christmas decorations. When I see the leaves shining through the forest I always think of them as being golden garments for the trees.

Beech trees grow throughout the eastern portion of the US—from Canada to Florida and can grow as high as 80 feet. The trees have tiny flowers in spring, but I’ve never seen them.

Carving on tree 76

The trees are noted for their smooth bark and for their nuts. I’ve never tasted one, but older folks in my area say the nut is sweet and in days gone by was a treat they enjoyed in the fall of the year.

The area we were in had some dandy beech trees, many of them were huge! When The Deer Hunter sees a large beech tree he always checks to see if anyone has carved on it. The smooth light colored bark lends itself to artwork.

As usual he was rewarded by finding the carving above. The name is no longer legible, but the year of 76 is still easy to see.

I was six years old when the name was carved. We had just moved into Granny and Pap’s newly built home here in Wilson Holler. My the changes that have come to my life, Brasstown, and the world since the day the knife was laid to bark. I wonder if the author is still living. I wonder what he would think about us finding his work and sharing it with the world.

The Frank C. Brown Collection Of NC Folklore says beech trees are special because they are never struck by lightning and will in fact protect you from lightning. I say beech trees are special because they welcome Spring of the year with their golden garments.

Last night’s video: Mountain Talk from Appalachia.

Tipper

Subscribe for FREE and get a daily dose of Appalachia in your inbox

You Might Also Like

27 Comments

  • Reply
    Brad Byers
    April 4, 2022 at 3:08 pm

    Tradition in Indiana says the main beam in a barn (roof peak) should be beech to deter lightning strikes. Local sawmills are well aware of this practice, and buy large beech trees for this reason. It’s interesting to me that local folklore calls for various species of timber for specific purposes, especially in the construction of buildings, barns, and houses. Far too many buildings nowadays get built of nothing but pine; usually from big box stores. I’m in the land of covered bridges built in the late 18th through the 19th centuries. They are still solid as a meetin’ house and serve us well.

  • Reply
    Robert
    April 4, 2022 at 1:48 pm

    Twenty years before that beech you saw was carved, I carved a heart and the initials of my first girlfriend into a beech tree. It was a very old tree then and probably doesn’t survive today.

    Sarvis is new to me. As usual, I learned something from your post.

    Thanks, Tipper!

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    April 4, 2022 at 12:49 pm

    Tipper–I’ll add a few thoughts on beech nuts. The mast on beech trees is highly unpredictable. Roughly four years out of every five the nuts, even though they seem to “make,” will be empty of any “meat.” When they do produce though, it’s Katy bar the door for every critter in the woods. Squirrels, bears, deer, wild turkeys, chipmunks, grouse, etc. flock to the feast. The nuts are also delicious to humans, but if you eat too many raw you’ll pay a price similar to green apple get alongs. The nuts contain a toxin that can produce major digestive distress. However, parching them in a frying pan for a bit takes care of the situation, and then the only real problem is that getting to the small nut requires a lot of work.

  • Reply
    Ron Bass
    April 4, 2022 at 12:27 pm

    Thanks for the info. If I find myself caught in a lighting storm I’ll look for a beech.
    I notice some red oaks in my area hold onto their leaves.

  • Reply
    Joe F.
    April 4, 2022 at 11:49 am

    Because of their relatively smooth bark, beech trees have been a favorite of “arbor graffiti artists” for centuries. It was a beech upon which “D. Boon cilled a bar in year 1760” was carved: https://www.elizabethton.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/36/2020/03/NW0304-East-Tn-History-2.jpg?w=461
    The carving’s authorship has been called into question, however, because in every other instance where Boone signed his name, he always spelled it correctly, with the final “e.”

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    April 4, 2022 at 11:27 am

    Tipper, from what I’ve seen, younger trees are far more likely to hold onto their leaves than mature ones. There might be a sermon in there somewhere.

    • Reply
      Tipper
      April 4, 2022 at 4:00 pm

      Don-I’m sure there is 🙂 I’ll be studying on that!

  • Reply
    Gene Smith
    April 4, 2022 at 10:39 am

    in the photo of trout lily, is that bone or antler in the foreground or am I seeing things?

    • Reply
      Tipper
      April 4, 2022 at 4:01 pm

      Gene-You’ve got good eyes 🙂 There’s several cow bones laying around the trout lilies

  • Reply
    sandra henderson
    April 4, 2022 at 10:34 am

    1976, our country’s bicentennial.
    i remmber it well…
    i was 10 yr old.
    i had a little house on the prairie bonnwt that my mom made for me, and quilt. there was a resurgance of things of old. all the while, the world became much like it is now. gas prices, oil chaos, food concerns and folks wanting to live off the land again. we did that.

    love those trees and have often noticed their leaves hanging on. kind of like the huge red oak in my yard.

    beautiful.

  • Reply
    AWGRIFF
    April 4, 2022 at 10:09 am

    Back about 10 yrs. my neighbor over the hill cut 2 large beech and one fell on my property. It was the biggest beech I’ve ever seen, probably about 4 ft. through, I hated seeing it cut but I did cut a lot of fire wood from it.

    When I was in elementary school some of us boys would go to the woods and gather beech nuts to eat. This was when kids were allowed to do such things and the teachers weren’t afraid of being sued. The nuts are really good to eat but you have to work some to get the small kernel.

    I believe beech trees only have a large crop every 3 years and of course the nut is a favorite of squirrels. grouse, turkeys, and hunters.

  • Reply
    Terry
    April 4, 2022 at 9:29 am

    As a kid, I liked to break off a twig and chew on it – very tasty.

  • Reply
    Shirl
    April 4, 2022 at 9:28 am

    One of the biggest trees I can ever remember seeing stood in the corner of our grade school playground. We would get off of the merry-go-round and grab a hand full of those small, odd shaped nuts and crack them with our teeth. My sister and I recently talked about how that old tree keeping one poor family’s kids from going hungry while at school. The boys and their one sister, Tina, would gather beech nuts to eat while the rest of us played during recess.
    I have never been able to identify a sarvis tree. I googled information about the tree years ago and that is when I found The Blind Pig and The Acorn.

  • Reply
    Ray Presley
    April 4, 2022 at 9:24 am

    Tipper, I enjoyed your writing about Beech and Sarvis trees. Beech trees are indeed beautiful. Beech and Sarvis trees occupy a special place in my memory. At my Mom’s old homeplace in LaFollette there was a special Sarvis tree where we would sometimes gather, with some leftovers from the kitchen, and whatever musical instruments we had, often including guitars, dulcimers, harmonicas and maybe a “Jew’s Harp.” They would play the old country classics like your Pap used to play.

  • Reply
    Ava
    April 4, 2022 at 8:45 am

    Your words conjure such vivid and beautiful images.

  • Reply
    Catherine Spence
    April 4, 2022 at 8:06 am

    There was a huge old beech tree in one corner of my grandparents’ yard in West Virginia; we loved to climb that tree.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    April 4, 2022 at 7:58 am

    Beech is one of the loveliest trees in the woods. Those over-wintering leaves have often been called ‘copper’ and that is especially fitting in the fall. I too think of the little ones as being like Christmas trees. They are easy to overlook amid all the green in summer but in winter it is noticeable just how many there are.

    Beech is actually on the increase for two major reasons. They are easily killed by fire and the ending of woods burning favored them. A second reason is that they are one of the very few native trees that will establish and grow in the full shade of the woods. Hemlock is another. In my lifetime, it has become more common to see beech widely scattered across the landscape. The biggest ones are still in moist places but who knows where our great grandchildren may be seeing the big ones.

    • Reply
      AWGRIFF
      April 4, 2022 at 10:16 am

      Ron, I have also noticed young beech trees growing all over hill sides that are already covered with much bigger trees that shade the beech.

  • Reply
    Angelyn McLain
    April 4, 2022 at 7:56 am

    Thanks for the info on the beech tree. It’s very interesting that they protect from lightning. I will have to look around and see if I can find one!

  • Reply
    Larry Paul Eddings
    April 4, 2022 at 7:52 am

    I have many Sarvis trees on my place and a few small Beech trees. Like you aptly described, the Sarvis trees are blooming here also and those lovely but stubborn Beech leaves are still firmly attached to their trees. Trout lilies grow in abundance in the hollow by the creek. They are exquisite. I love watching Spring slowly but majestically arrive here on the Cumberland Plateau. The Tulip Poplars will begin displaying that pale green foliage beginning at the foot of the mountains and climbing the slopes each day. They seem to lead the way for the other trees. What a glorious time of the year.

  • Reply
    Margie G
    April 4, 2022 at 7:51 am

    There’s nothing like a good, head- clearing walk in the woods to get your mind, body and spirit to a more peaceful, relaxed yet invigorated state of being. I guess I’ve seen beech trees, but I’m no arborist. I think ‘76 carved in the tree is pretty neat. Who did this and why on a particular day in 1976 we can all speculate about from now on. Were they celebrating the BICENTENNIAL? Thanks for the share!

  • Reply
    Rod Weigel
    April 4, 2022 at 7:21 am

    Chestnut trees also cling to their old leaves.

  • Reply
    Glenda G. Page
    April 4, 2022 at 7:19 am

    The Final chapter of the Mountain Path and your description of you walk in the woods finished my Sunday. I didn’t know if there was a book before Mountain Path or not, but I so look forward to next Friday’s Chapter of your current book. Stay safe and well and God Bless you and your family.

  • Reply
    Erik
    April 4, 2022 at 6:50 am

    Thank you for sharing! I love hikes in the woods and went on a long one yesterday with a mixture of winter and spring.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    April 4, 2022 at 6:36 am

    That sounds like a walk in the woods full of memories. I don’t get out in the woods much anymore, but I remember how healing the woods can be. They are so peaceful and full of spirits.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    April 4, 2022 at 6:12 am

    There is nothing I enjoy more than a walk through the woids. It is a special place for me a place of belonging and home. This post has inspired me to find out more about beech trees. Thank you

  • Reply
    donna sue
    April 4, 2022 at 5:31 am

    Thank you for this very interesting post about beech trees. I really enjoyed it! I have heard of these trees all my life through reading books that mentioned them, but didn’t think I had ever seen one when I lived in San Diego, and possibly Iowa. Now I know why. I was on the wrong side of the country! I have seen trees with brown leaves that cling to it all winter here in North Carolina, but never gave it much thought other than a passing “hmmm, why don’t the leaves fall off?”. I will now be looking out for these trees. Thank you for teaching me something new!

    Donna. : )

  • Leave a Reply