Beech woodland is both a much loved landscape and a highly specialised habitat. Characterised by the deep shade from the canopy above and by the thick carpet of fallen leaves and mast husks below, a Beech wood is the exclusive – and essential -domain of shade loving plants. Of course a Beech hedge will not replicate such definitive conditions, but it does offer many of its benefits…
Birds: The Beech nut is an important food for many species including Great Tit, Jay, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch and Siskin. These are produced on female plants and appear after around ten years.
Mammals: The Beech nut is equally popular with small mammals including mice, squirrels and – importantly -rare voles.
Insects: Beech foliage is eaten by the caterpillars of several moths, including the barred hook-tip, clay triple-lines and olive crescent.
Birds: If trimmed in early August, a Beech hedge will keep its leaves, offering privacy to humans and an excellent habitat for garden birds.
Mammals: The thick shelter of an established Beech hedge offers a wide variety of mammals both temporary shelter or a home
Insects: Over 60 insect species have been recorded living in Beech
If you are planting a longer Beech hedge, then do consider letting one, two or more of the plants grow as a tree. A Beech left to its own devices will reach c.4m after ten years. Not only will your hedge become a domesticated hedgerow, once the trees grow taller than the hedge, they will start to provide an even richer habitat for hole-nesting birds, wood-boring insects and a home for a broad selection of fungi, mosses and lichen.
PICTURE: A bat box in a beech tree!