Vallombrosa Sacred Beech Tree

This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)

Fagus sylvatica (Fagaceae)

A monumental beech grows inside a forest behind the Vallombrosa abbey.
Its dimensions are not impressive (trunk circumference of 10,8 ft and a height of 65,6 ft) but the first plant is supposedly between 900-1200 years-old, as reported by some historical information. The current tree we see now is a shoot born later, probably about 150 years ago.

This specimen tends to sprout its leaves earlier and lose them later than other trees of the same species in the wood. The Vallombrosan monks used to take very good care of the latter as well as the surrounding forests. One of them, Giovanni Gualberto, was even proclaimed Patron of the Italian Forestry in 1951. One day, the future saint found himself under the branches of this great beech tree and quite miraculously a spring of crystal-clear water appeared under his feet, or so the legend goes. On the wall above the tree, a commemorative stone is engraved with the story of this miracle.
In 1869, the first Italian Forestry School was born in the abbey premises, then it was transferred to Florence.

How to get there:

From the town of Reggello (FI), reach the village of Vallombrosa (about 8 miles) with the abbey and the wood where the beech tree grows.

Botanical Card

Western beeches, as the name suggests, are widespread throughout Western Europe. In central and northern Europe, this species grows in the plains, while in the southernmost areas it is usually found in mountain environments.
In Italy, it is widespread in the mountain areas of all the regions and on the eastern Mediterranean islands. Its best living environment in the Alps, between 1.970 ft. and 4.265 ft., although beeches can be found even at much higher altitudes, between 3.280 ft. and 5.577 ft. in peninsular Italy (Pignatti, 1982).

It is a mesophilic and sciaphilous species, which prefers loose, fresh, fertile and well-drained soils. It can form pure (beech) or mixed forests with white firs or other broad-leaved trees, according to different latitudes and altitudes.

The western beech features strong and thick basal shoots which allows the development of new ones from the old stump. The wood of this species is hard and quite resistant, but easy to craft: for these reasons it is used to make furniture and household goods, while it also provides excellent firewood and very good coal.

This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)


50066 Reggello(FI)

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