February 8
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Plant Genus of the family Fagaceae

Genus Description Cultivation
Castanea Belonging to the Fagaceae, or beech family, this is a small genus of about 12 species of sweet chestnuts native to the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, from North America across Europe and into eastern Asia. In habit they range from low suckering shrubs to tall trees. Several species are of economic importance, being grown for their sweet-tasting edible nuts, which are enclosed in a spiny whorl of bracts. The taller species are also valued as ornamental trees for parks and large gardens, especially for their spectacular yellowish green drooping catkins. CULTIVATION: Sweet chestnuts prefer a well-drained and slightly acid soil; adequate rainfall is essential. Most are frost hardy down to Zones 4 or 5. Propagation is usually from seed which should be sown as soon as it is ripe; selected clones can be reproduced by grafts onto 1- or 2-year-old understocks, in early spring.
Fagus With their own family (Fagaceae) beech trees have long been held in high esteem in their native Europe and the British Isles. They are also scattered through temperate Asia and North America, with the majority being found in China and Japan. They are represented by about 10 species, elegant deciduous trees with light green leaves of smooth texture, holding their branches to ground level. The horizontally held limbs produce layers of foliage which shade the smooth silvery gray trunks and protect against sunburn. In late autumn to winter the foliage turns golden brown or coppery red before falling, a spectacular sight in a cold climate. Their buds are distinctly sharp-pointed and long, held at an angle to the stem, and their prickly fruits, called ?masts?, split into four on ripening to release 2 triangular nuts. Found commonly on chalk soils, because they are surface-rooting trees, they easily outcompete nearby plantings and the ground underneath, in heavy shade, is often bare. In gales they are prone to being blown over. They make good hedge plants and can be clipped neatly. Some remarkable examples of hedged beeches are found throughout Europe. CULTIVATION: In wind-sheltered gardens good growth can be achieved on well-drained, reasonably fertile soil. Summer moisture is necessary until the trees become established. They will not tolerate poorly drained soils but handle moderate air pollution well. Seed should be sown when fresh or grafted cultivars purchased for specific characteristics.
Quercus This is a large genus of some 600 species, both evergreen and deciduous. The majority are trees, a few are shrubs, widely distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Many are large and impressive trees that live to a great age; their timber has long been valued for ship-building, fine furniture and paneling. Oaks are useful as ornamental landscape trees in parks and large gardens and, provided there is adequate space, as street trees. Their fruits (acorns) are partly enclosed in a cup that may be smooth, scaly, bristly or mossy. The acorns of some species are eaten by humans and animals. All have simple leaves, though often finely and deeply lobed, a few turning to spectacular tones of red or yellow-brown in autumn. Male and female flowers are carried on separate catkins on the same tree, usually in early spring. The abundant male catkins, generally yellowish green, provide the pollen, then drop off; the female catkins, smaller and less numerous, are pollinated by wind or insects and eventually produce the acorns, which may take 1 or 2 years to develop. CULTIVATION: The oaks grow well in deep, alluvial valley soils, or other fertile soils of higher country; only a few of the Mediterranean species are tolerant of poor dry soil. Most enjoy cool moist conditions and are quite frost hardy. Some early pruning may be needed to help establish a single straight trunk. Seeds, sown as soon as ripe in summer or autumn, germinate readily; cultivars and sterile hybrids are usually grafted in late winter or early spring.

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