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How to guess the age of a beech tree

Updated February 21, 2017

The beech is a hardy tree that is native to Britain and has the potential to live for a long time. If you have beech trees growing near your home, in the surrounding woods, or in your garden, you may be curious to know their age. One way to accurately measure a tree's age is to cut it down and count the growth rings, though this is impractical. You could also obtain a core sample, but this can also harm your beech. Alternatively, there are ways to estimate the age of your beech using careful observations.

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  1. Use a formula that foresters employ for estimating beech tree age. Measure the circumference of your beech tree with a tape measure or string that you can later measure. Take this number and divide it by 3.14 to get the true diameter of the beech. Then multiply this number by 4.8. For example, a beech with a diameter of 42.5 cm (17 inches) would possess an estimated age of 42.5 times 4.8, or 204 years.

  2. Search for any dated graffiti on beech trees. The beech is famous for its smooth blue-grey bark, which makes it the perfect spot for someone to carve their initials in. Assuming that the individual picked a large beech to carve in -- meaning the tree more than likely was mature at the time of the carving and at least 150 years old -- you will have an estimate of the age of the beech by adding the years since the graffiti occurred. Make excursions into the woods in hope of finding some beech trees with very old carving on the boot.

  3. Look for any records about landmark beech trees in your area that could reveal the age of the tree. For example, beech trees are often a landscaping plant and used near structures such as schools. By knowing the age of the school, you might find out the age of the beech. Examine old pictures of an area to ascertain whether a currently standing beech tree is in them. Speak to senior citizens and find out what they know about the age of specific beech trees in your region.

  4. Use the beech tree's ability to produce nuts to guess the age of younger trees. It takes about 40 years for a beech to produce beechnuts, triangle-shaped nuts that exist within the confines of a prickly husk. Smaller beeches with no nuts are under 40 years.

  5. Gauge the height of a beech tree. The tallest beeches will grow to 30 m (100 feet) but most are lucky to attain a height within the 18 to 24 m (60 to 80 foot) range. These tall beeches will be much older than smaller ones.

  6. Tip

    When an old beech tree finally topples over or is cut down, check the rings in the trunk and see how accurate your estimate of its age was.

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Things You'll Need

  • Measuring tape or string

About the Author

John Lindell

John Lindell has written articles for "The Greyhound Review" and various other online publications. A Connecticut native, his work specializes in sports, fishing and nature. Lindell worked in greyhound racing for 25 years.

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