The Beech Family
This family is made of trees (rarely shrubs), bisexual, deciduous or evergreen, with simple alternately placed leaves, rarely in whorls of three, having a smooth (entire) or serrate margin, with pinnate venation. The leaf blades are often covered with branched or stellate hairs. Stipules are free and deciduous. The flower arrangements are usually a reduced spike, a head or small cyme. Sometimes the flower is solitary arising in a branch axil; males flowers present on a catkin. The unisexual flowers ( monoecious) are radially symmetric (actinomorphic) and have a six (from 4 -9) lobed perianth. Male flowers usually have 12 stamens; female flowers are surrounded by a cupule (which becomes the acorn cap), the perianth is 6-lobed. The ovary is superior to the perianth ( the flower is hypogynous) and has 2 -6 locules; there are as many styles are locules. The fruit is a one- to three-cell nut which can be round, 3-angled or winged but always attached to a sessile or stalked cupule that can be saucer- or cup-shaped or encloses the fruit, which can be dehiscent and variously ornate. The Fagaceae are distributed across the temperate zones of the Northern and Southern hemispheres. The Fagaceae have eight genera: Castanea, Castanopsis, Chrysolepis, Fagus, Lithocarpus, Notholithocarpus, Quercus and Trigonobalanus. Castanea, chestnuts, have been cultivated for food since Roman times. C. mollissima has been cultivated in China for thousands of years. Quercus-derived acorns have served as food in Europe and America. Cork from the cork oak (Q. suber) has provided bottle stoppers. Bark of Quercus and Castanolpsis have been used to make dyes and ink. Fagus is the classical name for a beech tree from its Indo-European root bhehgos. This word is probably a cognate with classical Greek fagein, to eat, in reference to its edible nuts.