Beech Gold


Following the fog through the woods on the morning of the spring equinox, I was enchanted by the golden leaves of the winter beeches standing out in the gray light. The American Beech (Fagus grandifolia) is a native of North America and is found in forests throughout the eastern United States. It grows into a majestic tree with a straight, smooth, silver trunk and a broad canopy of pointed, dark green leaves. Beeches love moist soil, thriving near streams and rivers, and the woods along the Potomac River are filled with them. They tend to grow in stands around mature trees, sprouting from the shallow root system, so it's not unusual to see groupings of young beeches sprinkled through the undergrowth. There is one section of my favorite park where an entire hillside is covered with them. Since they often hold on to their leaves throughout the winter, their burnished gold halos makes beeches the stars of the winter woods. On foggy mornings like this one, I can imagine myself in my favorite childhood fairy tale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, running through a forest where the trees have silver trunks and leaves of real gold. I certainly photograph them as if I am under a spell! As I get close, I notice the elongated leaf buds pushing out from the tips of branches, so winter gold will soon be replaced by spring green. This will probably be my last enjoyment of beech gold, but after our long winter, I'm eager for the enchantments of a new season.