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European beech Tree of life’s a beech

In autumn, Switzerland’s beech trees are aflame with red leaves. However, they struggle with the higher temperatures that come with climate change. 

If it hadn’t been for the interference of mankind, the European beech would be the most common tree found in central Europe. Already in the 600s, people made books using thin boards cut from the versatile tree. In fact, the German word for book, “Buch”, is a derivative of the German name for the tree, “Buche”.

Along with spruce and silver fir, the European beech is one of the most important trees for Switzerland’s timber industry. Yet like many species, it is under threat. As the climate becomes warmer and drier, it has to adapt. Scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research have been experimenting with growing seedlings at different elevations

A European beech tree can reach a height of 40 metres, and its leaves grow anywhere from five to 15cm long. The beech nuts, encased in prickly husks, are edible.