I’ve spent many years researching and writing about the uses people make of plants
and what plants mean to the people who use them.

There is a summary of my work and some of the projects I’ve been involved in here


Beech © Aaron Parker

Beech - Fagus sylvatica         Photo: © Aaron Parker

One of Europe's most impressive native trees, the beech is magnificent in late Spring as new leaves unfurl to form a veil of soft, translucent green.

Slim and conical in outline when young, developing a many-branched crown which spreads to form a dense canopy as they age, beech trees were for centuries the source of mast (provided by their three-sided nuts) for grazing animals, and of firewood for domestic and industrial use. Beech wood was to become highly valued as a timber for interior construction and joinery, and especially in the Chilterns for the making of chairs. It is still widely used for furniture, flooring and all sorts of domestic items today.

Widely admired in Britain as a landscape tree for its elegance and grace, the beech was considered 'the most lovely of forest trees' by the 18thC naturalist Gilbert White*. Avenues and clumps of beeches form many notable landmarks, but the current sad obsession in so many towns and suburban areas with a perceived danger to the public as they age and show signs of decay has meant that large numbers of magnificent beeches, still in their prime, are needlessly felled each year. Beech trees will live for several hundred years, if allowed, their old gnarled trunks providing a home for a range of lichens, mosses and fungi, a nesting site for birds and an important habitat for wood-boring insects.

* Gilbert White, The Natural History of Selborne, 1789

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