Beech-Tree, or the Fagus, L. a plant of which there are three species, viz. 1. The sylvatica, or beech-tree, which rises sixty or seventy feet high; 2. The castnnea, or chesnut-tree; 3. The puwila. or dwarf chesnut-tree; and 4. The Americana, or American chesnut-tree. At present, we shall confine our account, consistently with the alphabetical order, to the first-mentioned species.
This tree is easily raised from the mast, or seeds. If intended for woods, it requires the same management as the oak; in nurseries, it should be treated like the ash; by sowing the mast in autumn, or even as late as January, to preserve it from vermin. Han-BURY recommends, that a sufficient quantity of mast be gathered about the middle of September, when it begins to fall; it should be spread upon a mat in an airy place to dry, after which it may either be sown immediately, or preserved in bags till the spring: the latter, method, however, is preferable. It must be sown about an inch deep, in beds properly prepared. Several of the young plants will appear early in spring, but others will not come up till the spring following. After having remained two years in this state, they ought to be transplanted to the nursery.
In the year 1791, John Holi.i-day, Esq. of Dillorn, Staffordshire, planted 113, 500 trees of different kinds; among these, the principal were ninety-four thousand beech. His method of planting was, to make a round hole about the dia-meter of two spades; to preserve the best turf, and place it on the south-west side, which, by experience, has been found to answer two useful purposes, namely, that of protecting the young plant from the storms of winter, and shedding the best soil in the bed of the hole, both winter and summer. It is but justice to observe, that this gentleman received the honorary reward of the gold medal from the Society for the Encouragement of the Arts.
The beech is the most beautiful tree our island produces. In state-liness and grandeur of outline, it vies with the oak. Its foliage is peculiarly delicate and pleasing to the eye, and therefore preferable to the lime, for ornamental plantations, particularly in parks, where the mast in fruitful years will be serviceable to the deer: its branches are numerous and spreading, and its stem grows to a great size. The bark is extremely smooth and silvery, which, together with the elegance of its foliage, gives a pleasing neatness and delicacy to its general appearance. Beeches thrive best on calcareous hills, and abound on the bed of chalk which runs from Dorsetshire, through Wiltshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, and Kent; though they may also be met with in almost every county in England.
An anonymous writer on agriculture, says, that "great care should be taken to remove the beech from woods, that oaks may thrive: without this precaution oak-forests h3ve become of less value by several hundred pounds, from the intrusion of the beech."
In Hereford and Monmouthshire, the beech is converted into charcoal; and, in several counties, jts leaves are used for beds, instead of feathers. They certainly have this advantage over feathers, that they may often be changed at a trifling expence.
The wood of this tree is almost as necessary to the cabinet-makers and turners of the metropolis, as oak is to the ship-builder ; it is, however, very liable to be attacked by a worm which soon destroys it • this worm is supposed to feed on the sap that remains in the wood, consequently, the best method of preserving it, js to extract the food on which the worm sub-sists. - For this purpose, scandines of beech, when large, should be laid to soak in a pond for several weeks, according to the size of the limber, and the season of the year. In the heat of summer this effect is more speedily produced. As the planks or boards are in danger of warping, they should be exposed to dry, but sheltered from the sun and rain ; laths ought to be placed between the boards, to prevent their contact, and the whole pressed by a considerable weight. If they are large pieces for beams, joists, etc. they need only be left to dry gradually under sheds.
By the first of these methods, the timber, when applied to use, will be found as good and durable as elm. It is, however, advisable, when beech is used, to prepare that part of the timber which touches the brick-work, with a thick coat of pitch, to guard it. against the effects of moisture. It should be felled in the heat of summer, when full of sap, which may then be more readily extracted from the wood than in winter.
Beams and thick planks should remain about twenty weeks in water; joists and rafters, about twelve weeks ; and the thinner boards, about two months ; but afterwards they should all be gradually dried.
When this wood is intended for small work, such as chairs, or turnery, it is recommendeu to erect a large copper, sufficient to hold two hogsheads, in which the wood may be boiled tor two or three, hours. This mode of preparing it extracts all the sap, makes, it work more smoothly, and renders it more beautiful and durable.