The Beech and the environment
Photosynthesis is the process by which plants transform water, carbon dioxide and sunlight into sugar (glucose) and oxygen. In the beech, this takes place in the leaves. Chlorophyll gives the leaves their green colour and is responsible for the absorbance of sunlight.
Extraction of carbon dioxide from the air
During photosynthesis, the leaves extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This is stored in the wood of the tree.
A 120-year-old beech with a height of about 35 m and a diameter of 50 cm (measured 1.3 m above ground) has a dry weight of 1.9 metric tonnes and stores about 0.95 tonnes of carbon. A beech tree stores almost a tonne more CO2 than a pine tree of the same height and diameter. This is because the beech has a higher wood density. In the fight against the greenhouse effect, forests thus play an important role – in two different ways: firstly, they extract CO2 from the atmosphere and secondly, this storage is prolonged if the wood is used for new building constructions, modernisation, extensions or furniture.
Oxygen from the beech
Our 120-year-old beech tree releases about 1.7 kilograms of oxygen per hour through the pores (stomates) of its leaves. On average, that is the same amount of oxygen that 50 people need to breath for one hour.
During the last Ice Age, the European beech (Fagus sylvatica) died out in Central Europe but survived in the Mediterranean and began the re-conquest of Europe about 10.000 years ago.
Not for raw consumption
Raw beechnuts contain trimethylamine (fagin) that can lead to toxic symptoms if eaten. The poisonous substance can be destroyed by roasting the nuts.
Where the beech is found
The European beech, Fagus sylvatica, is the most wide-spread deciduous tree in German forests.
The abundance of beech in this country is completely natural.
Without human influence, there would be an even much larger number of beeches. Especially in Northern Germany, in the Central German Uplands and the Pre-Alpine landscape, there are large forests that are dominated by beeches. The beech is one of the few deciduous trees in Germany that still exists in woodlands with only one sort of tree. But it also grows in mixed forests with conifers and other deciduous trees.
The main geographical range of the European beech is Central Europe. Germany has taken on responsibility to preserve the beech woods in their natural state. Beeches make up about 15 % of German woodland. So it is obvious that the natural conditions in Germany are very favourable for beeches, which means that the trees can better withstand illness, parasites and storms.
Cool, moist weather and nutritious earth are most favoured by the beech and it grows in a variety of landscapes from lowlands to Pre-Alpine countryside. It can withstand extreme coldness and a large amount of rainfall but can’t cope with drought or being waterlogged.
The Beech and its children
Since 1999, seeds of the Bavaria Beech have been collected and raised to small trees in a forest nursery. It was possible to take on a sponsorship for the offspring of this highly symbolic tree. In 2008, the project „Children of the Bavaria Beech“ was completed, and with its help more than 600 beech children were handed over and planted locally, in other parts of Bavaria and Germany, and even in other European countries. One of these „children“ stands in front of the Bavarian State Chancellery in Munich.
In the same way that we human beings live on in our children, the Bavaria Beech will live on in its offspring.
And so will the legend of the tree.