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Tree Botanics

Silver Beech Previous

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Other Names: (Nothofagus menziesii) = Tawai/Tawhai

The Silver Beech is one of the most distinctive of all the native Beech species, member of the Fagaceae family, presenting as a medium to tall tree reaching up to 30m in overall physical height, with a trunk diameter up to 2m and often buttressed.  It has a dense and bushy spreading crown and is widley dominant in high-altitude/lowland forests alike from Auckland to Southland (except east coast areas), except mount Egmont.  In subalpine areas it often appears as a only a stunted shrub.  Silver Beech is tolerant of heavy snowfalls and does not hybridise with other species of Beech. The bark of young trees is silvery-white, smooth & thin, but with age it becomes dark - black, shaggy, flaking, thick & irregularly furrowed.  Frequently it is quite heavily covered with mosses & lichens. Most distinctive as an identiying feature are the small, hard leaves that are rounded & bluntly toothed around the margins.  They are alternate and glossy, light green in colour between 8 - 12mm wide.  The young spring foliage is an attractive pale green. Silver Beech is dioecious (having the male and female reproductive organs borne on separate individuals of the same species); the male flowers number 1 - 4 per stalk & appear green - straw coloured, borne on spring shoots from September - December.  female flowers are also 1 - 4 per stalk, but are obscurely placed between the scales & are produced closer to the tips of the branchlets than the male. The fruits are nuts inside small sticky cupules (a small cup-shaped structure or organ, such as the cup at the base of an acorn.), 3-angled or flat, 2 - 3 winged nuts approximately 5 - 6mm long occurring from January & shed in autumn. The timber is a deep red in colour, extremely compact & dense, but not well figured.  Its primary use is as a timber in furniture making, although it has been used as a general utility timber in the past.  the Silver Beech is also known as Tawai/Tawhai.