Compartmentalization boundary layers surrounding hollow and decaying stem cores were investigated in beech (Fagus sylvatica L.). In all investigated trees, boundary layers corresponded anatomically to the reaction zones and notto the barrier zones as proposed by the CODIT model. In the central part ofreaction zones, vessels were heavily occluded with deposits of gums and suberised tyloses, whereas the lumina of ray and axial parenchyma, fibre tracheids and all pit apertures were filed with insoluble deposits. The inner part of reaction zones exhibited decay of cell walls and deposits, leaving suberized structures intact. This part was absent in the reaction zones bordering directly on the hollow, although fungal fruit bodies were present onthe surface of the reaction zone. Increased amount of starch grains and different growing stages of tyloses in the outer part of reaction zones indicated active compartmentalization processes. The paper discusses in detailthe active defensive and passive protective function of reaction zones in the living trees.