Dwarf Beech

The Dwarf Beech, Fagus sylvatica Tortuosa Group, is a rare Cultivar Group of the European Beech with less than 1500 older specimens in Europe. It is also known as Twisted Beech or Parasol Beech.

Dwarf Beech
The Dwarf Beech known as the "Kopfbuche" ("Head Beech") in Bad Gandersheim in 2003. It has since then largely collapsed.
SpeciesF. sylvatica
Cultivar groupTortuosa Group

It is a wide-spreading tree with distinctive twisted and contorted branches that are quite pendulous at their ends. With its short and twisted trunk the Dwarf Beech grows more in width than height, only seldom reaching a height of more than 15 m. It sometimes grows from seed and has formed colonies in Sweden ("Vresbok"), Denmark ("Vrange bøge"), Germany ("Süntel-Buchen"), France ("Faux de Verzy") and Italy ("Alberi serpente", nel Monte Pollino).

A similar form is the Weeping Beech (Fagus sylvatica Pendula Group), which has more pendulous branching.


200 year old Dwarf Beech in Lauenau.

Until the middle of the 19th century the largest Dwarf Beech forest in Europe was in the Süntel. The Süntel is a small massif north of Hamelin in Lower Saxony. During the course of land reform in 1843 the entire area of a 245 meter high hill between Hülsede and Raden was cleared. At that time the number of Dwarf Beeches in Germany sank from several thousand to under 100. Individual older specimens or small groups of trees can only be found in about 50 locations today. The number of Dwarf Beeches have been supplemented by numerous new plantings in recent decades.

The largest Dwarf Beeches in Germany are in the Berggarten botanical garden in Hannover and in Lauenau. In Bad Nenndorf there is a "Dwarf Beech Avenue" made up of almost 100 trees, two-thirds of which are basal shoots. The "Head Beech" in Bad Gandersheim, which was considered one of the largest Dwarf Beeches at the beginning of the 21st century (2003), has since then largely collapsed despite intensive tree care measures.

Dwarf Beeches are also commonly found among the Wiehen Hills. A well known example of this tree species stands today on the Eidinghauser hill and bears the name "Krause Buche" ("Ruffle Beech") due to its striking growth. A second, smaller beech grows nearby. For the plant geographer, this phenomenon justifies the assumption that the dwarf beech was once spread from the Süntel over the Wesergebirge to the Wiehen Hills.[1] Regardless, the German name "Süntelbuche" is not incorrect because formerly the Wiehen Hills, the Wesergebirge, and the Süntel were all officially referred to as the Süntel.[2]

Smaller Groups of older Dwarf Beeches still exist in France (Hêtre tortillard), Denmark (Vrange bøge), and Sweden (Vresboken). Younger trees can be found in many parks and botanic gardens throughout Europe and the United States.

In the Verzy forest 25 km southeast of Reims, according to a census[3] from 1998, a population of more than 800 dwarf beeches was found (Faux de Verzy). Since then the number has been reduced slightly. The most beautiful specimens have been separated and have become tourist attractions along a circular path in a park-like area.

Dwarf Beech Reserve of the Heimatbund NiedersachsenEdit

Around 1990 the local Bad Münder branch of the Heimatbund Niedersachsen Registered Association created an 11,000 m² dwarf beech reserve above the localities of Nettelrede and Luttringhausen.[4] The property, which was initially leased by the Bad Münder local branch, was bought by the Heimatbund Niedersachsen on September 27, 2010. Young dwarf beeches can grow to maturity protected in the reserve. The sustainable nature protection project serves exclusively to preserve and reproduce this rare tree species. In the closed stock of dwarf beeches there is a high genetic diversity important for reproduction. In addition, due to its isolated location the reserve avoids genetic mixing with the European Beech in Deister and Süntel.

The reserve was surveyed with a theodolite. It was possible to precisely record the location of every beech and to number the individual trees. The survey plan became the basis for maintenance work and scientific research.[5]



The age of dwarf beeches is often overestimated due to their gnarled growth. The average age limit is between 120 and 160 years. The horizontal, static unfavorable growth seems to accelerate the breakup of old rotten trees, so that dwarf beeches never reach 300 years of age. The only trees with well known old ages are the Tilly-Buche in Auetal (255 years)[6] and the dwarf beech in the castle park of Haus Weitmar in Bochum (270 years).

Growth PatternsEdit

Dwarf Beech trunkless "bush form".

The greatest difference to the normal form is in the peculiar growth of the roots, trunk, and branches of the dwarf beech. Twist, snake, corkscrew, kink, knee, zig-zag, or simply stunted growth have all been used to describe the most varied of twisted trees. The cross-sections of trunks show deep furrows and bulges, they are not "circular". In botanical terms it might be called a backward tension trunk. They resemble elephant feet and are sometimes hardly higher than 2 meters even in old specimens. Occasionally, there are entirely trunkless "bush forms". Often there are "sinkers", or side branches that extend below the surface of the earth from the main trunk which only resurface after a few meters. Older individuals, like the dwarf beech in the mountain garden of the Herrenhausen Gardens, give the impression of a whole group of trees.

In addition, dwarf beeches show a slight "mourning form". The branches in the outer crown area droop, but not so strongly as in the weeping beech. The branches in the upper middle part of the crown, on the other hand, are usually erect and give the crown a scruffy appearance.

The tree shape can also be influenced by finishing techniques, for example through "high stem-finishing". Of course, the growth of the dwarf beech also depends on location (competition, shade, nutrients, wind, etc.).

"Dwarf Beech Avenue" in Bad Nenndorf.

Flowers, leaves, fruit, and bark, as well as the strength of the wood correspond with the species (European beech). However, the leaves and fruit show show a greater variation in size and shape than in the European beech. Other striking characteristics are the arrangement of the buds, the occasional curved buds and double terminal buds at the branch tips, and the strong tendency to develop basal shoots, especially in trees that are transported when young. The typical European beech roots are strongly distorted in the dwarf beech due to its stunted growth. As a result, individual roots come to the surface more often and form basal shoots that grow into new, mostly long, undivided, and snake-growing stems.

Dwarf Beech VariationsEdit

Possibilities for variation in the dwarf beech include the growth patterns and the leaf shape and color. Crosses with other leaf varieties of the European beech are desirable, but have only succeeded in the copper beech. Red-leaved dwarf beeches, the blood-dwarf-beeches (F. sylvatica var. Tortousa Purpurea or "red-dwarf"), have existed since 1967.

External linksEdit


  1. ^ Schwier, H. (1930). "Süntelbuchen" (in German).
  2. ^ Rüthing, Heinrich (1999). "Die Anfänge des religiösen Lebens auf dem Wittekindsberg nach den schriftlichen Quellen". Archäologie in Ostwestfalen (in German). 4: 45.
  3. ^ Gallois, A.; Audran, J. C.; Burrus, M. (1998). "Assessment of genetic relationships and population discrimination among Fagus sylvatica L. by RAPD". Theoretical and Applied Genetics. 97: 211–219.
  4. ^ "Süntel-Buchen-Reservat" (in German).
  5. ^ "Heimatland". Zeitschrift für Heimatkunde, Naturschutz, Kulturpflege (in German). 4: 163. 2010.
  6. ^ Gruber, Franz (2003). "Über Wachstum und Alter der drei bedeutsamsten Süntelbuchen (Fagus sylvatica L. var. suentelensis Schelle) Deutschlands. Teil 2: Die Süntelbuchen von Lauenau und Raden". Allgemeine Forst- und Jagdzeitung (in German). Frankfurt a. M., 174: J. D. Sauerländer’s Verlag. 1: 8–14. ISSN 0002-5852.CS1 maint: location (link)