Beech is native to western Europe. Its range extends from southern Scandinavia to central Spain, Corsica, Sicily and Greece, eastwards to western Russia and Crimea and westwards to Britain. Beech is now widely naturalised in Ireland having been introduced on numerous occasions since the 1500's.
Beech grows on a wide range of soils, but its growth performance is greatly influenced by site quality. It grows best on moist free draining soils of moderate depth with a neutral or slightly acid pH (pH 6.0 - 7.5). Unsuitable sites include frost prone sites, heavy clay soils, peaty soils, poor sandy soils, shallow soils and soils with free calcium carbonate to the surface. Beech is tolerant of exposure, but prefers a sheltered site where it can grow straight and tall. In Ireland Beech is commonly planted in mixture with a coniferous species such as Scots pine or European larch. Beech does not compete well with grass and other vegetation and weed control is vital as long as competition persists.
Beech timber is strong, straight grained and even textured. It is an easily worked timber and finishes excellently with most hand and machine tools. Good quality beech is a prized furniture timber. Beech is also widely used in joinery, flooring and plywood manufacture. High quality beech logs can be peeled to produce beech veneer. Beech is also widely used for turnery.
Sycamore is native to high elevations in southern and central Europe. It extends northwards to Paris and east as far as the Caucasus. Its time of introduction is unclear but it is thought that it first became widely planted during the 17th century. Since then it has become naturalised here and is now a common woodland and hedgerow tree.
Sycamore thrives on a wide range of soils, but will not grow in soils which are either too dry or too wet. It grows best on deep, moist, free draining soils of pH 5.5 - 7.5. Sycamore is tolerant of exposure to wind and also to salt spray, but performs best in sheltered locations. Young plants are very intolerant of competition from grasses, making vegetation control extremely important. Shaping and pruning is also important to produce good quality stems.
Sycamore has a fine even textured wood of nearly white or slightly yellowish brown colour. It is a hard and strong wood that can be worked to a very smooth finish. It is widely used for furniture making and joinery and is also very suitable for flooring. 'Wavy grained' sycamore which sometimes occurs can reach extremely high prices and is used for making good violins and other musical instruments and also for veneers.