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Beech Forest

A dramatic change occurs at the edge of the beech forest. Every surface, apart from the dark scalloped trunks of the giant beech trees and the tan, round leaves carpeting the path, appears a shade of green. Bright, light-green, thick moss glows between the lacy tracery of tree fern fronds. An ethereal greenish light shines through long blue-green, old men's beards-a long lichen 'dripping' from almost every bough, twisting high into the deep dark canopy.

The forest becomes an enchanted timeless place where children can imagine fairies among the delicate ferns and mosses clothing the forest floor in intricate miniature shapes and luxuriant textures. In springtime, the fieldia, a fragile vine with a tiny scalloped leaf, glows when it showers its gorgeous cream bells where it creeps over moss-covered rocks. Terrestrial beech orchids cascade creamy-white sprays from beech boughs. All year round, opaque putty-white elephant's foot fungi-the scale of the animal's anatomy -stands out from everything green, where it is anchored between the bulbous base of the beech. Coppice growths, upright beech tree suckers, appear here, ready to flourish if the parent tree is damaged. The beech trees also disperse seeds and many saplings can be seen emerging from the forest floor. The ingenious yellow-throated scrub wren's nest dangles from frail twigs at the end of a branch. To deter predators, this tiny designer builder, which weighs only a few grams, weaves a delicate, hanging, dome-shaped nest from moss and lichen, complete with a side door opening away from the tree, over a swift-flowing mountain stream.