Text and photos by Sheryl Honig, NWS Board
(click on any photo to view in full size/slide show)
What do buttery rich caramel, translucent lace, and shiny emeralds have in common? They all describe the leaves of a beech tree, which are breathtaking in all seasons at Newport!
This spring, when you enter the forest to see the miraculous carpet of trillium lighting up the forest floor, and you are surrounded by the deep, lush blue-green of the hemlocks, lift your gaze half way up to the canopy. You will notice a layer of new beech leaves that are teardrop in shape, as they wake from their buds. The buds themselves are noteworthy, in their bright rust-colored spear-like appearance. Long and pointed, they hold the promise of intensely green new leaves. The new leaves emerge and seem to hang like emeralds throughout the forest. They fairly drip with the freshness of life. The combination of white trillium (and then pink trillium), being baptized by the bright green beech leaves, with a backdrop of rich hemlock is my favorite springtime spectacle.
But have you noticed the beech leaf in summer? Then its deeply veined surface creates a unique appearance. Their gentle oval shape combined with an almost ruffled surface makes it easily recognizable.
Like its relative the oak, the beech tree holds onto its leaves through the winter. As the maple’s leaves fall to the ground in the fall, you will see a curtain of beech “caramel” persistently hanging, adding depth and texture to the surrounding thinning foliage. As the winter progresses, the rich caramel color slowly fades to a pale cream. By March and April, the layer of beech becomes a delicate layer of lace in the forest.
Come walk the hemlock-beech forest any time of year to find beauty in the beech!