Antarctic beech (Northofagus antarctica)

One of the Greenways most extreme trees  - Antarctic Beech is the focus for this weeks blog post. This specimen is native to the southern hemisphere; Chile and Argentina and an island called Hoste which allows its claim, as the southernmost tree on earth. As such it will withstand temperatures down to -20. Antarctic beech was introduced to Britain in the 1830’s from Chile.

Its characteristic and distinguished features (leaves and habit) make it very unique. The small serrated heart shaped leaves have a glossy look giving them the appearance of an evergreen, although it is deciduous. Throughout the summer the green fleshy leaves give off a sweet herb like smell turning golden yellow in the autumn.

Photo credit: Paul Hunter

Normally this tree grows from a shrub into a small tree, commonly misshapen and multi-stemmed. The main trunk grows vertically but the branches have an irregular (herringbone shaped) growth pattern that can and often create distorted and curious shapes. The bark is covered in small remarkable white lines called lenticels which really stand out against the darkness of the bark, becoming increasingly noticeable as the leaves fall.

It is a vigorously growing tree suited to medium and large gardens and parkland where it could be planted as a specimen. However,  we think it looks best planted as a group because it is much harder to miss and more effective. It will eventually form a rounded habit and grow to a height of 7 - 12m. it is suited to a sunny position and grows best in fertile soil. It has a deeply penetrating and strongly branched taproot which gives it great stability. 

Photo credit: Colin McAlister

Where to find it?

This is an uncommon tree that we think has masses of appeal and deserves to be planted much more.

Along the Connswater Community Greenway this tree is unique to C.S. Lewis Square. We have planted the tree around the White Witch sculptures as its shape and association with the Antarctic reminds us of winter and the cold familiar traits of her character.

Be Part of it…

This can be a very unusual looking and very characteristic tree so if you decide to take a selfie with our White Witch at Halloween or if you are fortunate to be passing the space during an early mist we would love to see your photos.