Tree of the month: June 2022

Stephen Middleton from the Friends of Alexandra Park is kindly introducing us to his favourite trees in the Park. Here is his selection for June… 

Look up into the canopy on a sunny day and this tree with its elegant, cut leaves looks stunning. The shape of the leaves could remind you of some type of oak. In fact it is a Fern-leaved Beech (Fagus sylvatica var. heterophylla ‘Aspleniifolia’). Although the leaves look very different from the quite familiar common beech, it is a variant of the species.  

At the top of the Rose Garden, sandwiched between another variant of the beech, the copper beech, and a light coloured tree, a honey locust, you can find this odd looking beech tree. 

The tree of the month has a smooth bark typical of beeches and this time of year there is a big clue to tell you that it is in fact a beech tree – the beech nuts – which look just like all other beech nuts.

The nuts come in very variable amounts each year. Some years very few nuts are produced and in others large amounts (“mast years”). 

The common beech, itself, is native to southern England and a large part of continental Europe. It can grow to a height of at least 20m. 

The “sylvatica” part of the scientific name comes from the Latin word for forest where this tree typically grows. “Heterophylla” means different leaves and “Aspleniifolia” is in reference to the leaf shape being similar to that of the fronds of spleenwort ferns.

Located next to a copper beech, it is easy to contrast the feathery, green leaves of this tree with the rounder, darker coloured leaves of the copper beech.

The fern-leaved beech is mostly found in parks and larger gardens and is prized for its ornamental, delicate leaves.

The tree sheds its leaves in autumn and if you look on the ground below the tree at that time of year the leaves form an attractive ground covering.

With its leaves lost in winter, the tree looks just like a normal beech with long, thin, sharp pointed buds.

Wood from beech trees is used for furniture, parts of musical instruments, and also makes excellent firewood.

This is the only example of this tree in the park although ordinary beeches can be found around the park including one on the Muswell Hill side of The Grove Cafe.