Perfect shelter against burning July sun

The copper beech provides good shade against the scorching sun. And if you hide underneath its thick foliage, in the most aggressive downpour, you will remain dry.


'Copper' does not adequately describe the colour of the leaves of this cultivated beech. Earlier in the year, in May, the buds start to open out, as soft as silk velvet in colours that change depending on the light. Even now, in July, if you look up at the underside of the leaves with the sun behind them they are a translucent purple and often magenta, but sometimes shimmering to olive green. As the year progresses the leaves get more settled and harden up to the colour of dark auburn hair. The one photographed here is in Palmerston Park, in Dublin. At its side there is another cultivated beech fagus sylvaticus asplenifolia which has slender leaves deeply cut into long narrow lobes. The leaves of one branch of this tree have reverted to common beech leaves – quite an interesting phenomenon and an odd sight.

There is an enormous copper beech – impossible to be more accurate without a theodolite – on the walkway along the Dodder River at Lower Dartry on the way to Orwell Road in Dublin. At a rough estimate it could be 35 metres high and it is majestic. Application for planning permission for 21 houses was spotted not far from the tree, so you might want to catch it in case it has not long to live. One of the most stunning copper beeches in Dublin is in the Botanic Gardens. It is huge, very tall and with room for a small village inside its massive trunk.

There are some really fine examples of the copper beech throughout Ireland, in gardens and parks and along roadsides. You'd need a biggish garden to accommodate a copper beech, as it is fast growing and can grow very tall. What's more, its roots spread aggressively and can cause damage to garden walls and even the foundations of your house. It really needs land, not a garden, to enjoy it in its full majesty.