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Outdoors: Beech books

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During summer, it is easy to overlook beech trees.

But this time of year, when leaves are gone from mature beech and almost all other deciduous trees, the tan leaves of young beech trees give us some much-appreciated winter color.

Interlochen campers tell me that the trunks of beech trees remind them of elephant legs.

The smooth grey bark is thin, but not particularly insulating.

Beech trees grow in the eastern United States but they peter out just west of Lake Michigan.

Botanists speculate that away from the tempered lake climate, beech bark does not offer enough protection for winter survival.

In short, I love beech trees, so I was delighted to read that the first pages of European literature were written on the smooth bark of a beech tree.

Many scholars believe that the word "book" evolved from the ancient word for "beech."

Admittedly, not all scholars agree, and European beech is not quite the same as ours.

But in winter, as I sit reading by a beechwood fire, I am warmed by the thought that creative writing and the beautiful and complex English language may have had its roots in the bark of a tree.