”’Scientific Name”’: ”Fraxinus excelsior”
”’Also known as”’: European ash.
”’Habitat”’: Ash prefers moister soil types and is commonly limited by temperature and so not found at the higher colder altitudes in much of Europe. It is native throughout Europe, and it cultivated widely, and reportedly naturalized in New Zealand and scattered locations in the USA and Canada. Ash is the third most common tree in Britain.
”’Description”’: It is a large deciduous tree growing to 12–18 m (exceptionally to 43 m) tall with a trunk up to 2 m (exceptionally to 3.5 m) diameter, with a tall, narrow crown. European Ash rarely exceeds 250 years of age; However, there are numerous specimens estimated between 200 and 250 years old and there are a few over 250. The largest is in Clapton Court, England and is 9 m (29.5 ft) in girth. The Woodland Trust reports that ash can live for up to 400 years, longer if coppiced.
”’Value to wildlife”’
Ash trees make the perfect habitat for a number of different species of wildlife. The airy canopy and early leaf fall allow sunlight to reach the woodland floor, providing optimum conditions for wildflowers such as dog violet, wild garlic and dogs mercury, and consequently insects such as the rare and threatened high brown fritillary butterfly.
Bullfinches eat the winged seeds and woodpeckers, owls, redstarts and nuthatches use the trees for nesting. Because trees are so long lived, they support deadwood specialists such as the lesser stag beetle. Often ash is accompanied by a hazel understory, providing the perfect conditions for dormice.
Ash bark is often covered with lichens and mosses. The leaves are an important food plant for the caterpillars of many species of moth, including the coronet, brick, centre-barred sallow and privet hawk-moth.
”’Mythology and symbolism”’
The ash tree was thought to have medicinal and mystical properties and the wood was burned to ward off evil spirits. In Norse Viking mythology, ash was referred to as the ‘Tree of Life’. Even today it is sometimes known as the ‘Venus of the woods’. In Britain we regarded ash as a healing tree.
* ”’Bark”’ – The bark is smooth, pale brown to grey, which fissures as the tree ages.
* ”’Twigs”’ – Twigs are stout and greenish-grey. The twigs tend to be “flattened”, which with the opposite and terminal buds, make them look like animal paws.
* ”’Buds”’ – Jet black buds (opposite and terminal), helps to distinguish it from other ash species which have grey or brown buds.
* ”’Leaves”’ – Pinnately compound, typically comprising 3-6 opposite pairs of light green, oval leaflets with long tips, up to 40cm long. There is an additional singular ‘terminal’ leaflet at the end. The leaves can move in the direction of sunlight, and sometimes the whole crown of the tree may lean in the direction of the sun. Another characteristic of ash leaves is that they fall when they are still green. Leaflets have coarsely serrated margins and there are no stipules.
* ”’Flowers”’ – Ash is dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers typically grow on different trees, although a single tree can also have male and female flowers on different branches. Both male and female flowers appear in short pannicles, are purple and appear before the leaves in spring, growing in spiked clusters at the tips of twigs. The trees can produce all male flowers one year, then all female the next and vice versa.
* ”’Fruit”’ – Once the female flowers have been pollinated by wind, they develop into conspicuous winged fruits, or ‘keys’, in late summer and autumn. They fall from the tree in winter and early spring, and are dispersed by birds and mammals; although some ash keys can remain on the tree into the next year. If the fruit is gathered and planted when it is still green and not fully ripe, it will germinate straight away, however once the fruit is brown and fully ripe, it will not germinate until 18 months after sowing (i.e. not until two winters have passed).
==Pictures throughout the year==
File:AshFeb1(1).jpg|alt=Ash seed wings in February (on a bed of Alexanders for contrast).|Feb – Ash seed wings
File:AshFeb2(1).jpg|alt=Ash twig and buds in February (on a bed of Alexanders for contrast).|Feb – Ash twig and buds
File:AshFeb3(1).jpg|alt=Ash twig and buds in February|Feb – Ash twig and buds
File:AshMarch2(1).JPG|alt=Ash flowers beginning to open in March|March – Ash flowers beginning to open
Ash keys can be pickled before the seed appears in the fruit and have a similarity to olives.
Immature seed – usually pickled by steeping in salt and vinegar, and then used as a condiment for other foods.
The leaves are astringent, cathartic, diaphoretic, mildly diuretic, laxative and purgative; They have been used as a laxative, making a mild substitute for senna pods. The leaves should be gathered in June, well dried and stored in airtight containers. The bark is antiperiodic, astringent and a bitter tonic. Little used in modern herbalism, it is occasionally taken in the treatment of fevers. The seeds, including their wings, have been used as a carminative; They will store for 12 months if gathered when ripe.
People have used ash timber for years. It is one of the toughest hardwoods and absorbs shocks without splintering. It is used for making tools and sport handles, including hammers, axes, spades, hockey sticks and oars. An attractive wood, it is also used for furniture. Ash coppices well, which traditionally provided wood for firewood and charcoal.
A green dye is obtained from the leaves. The bark is a source of tannin.
Has been known to cause dermatitis in some people.
For food, harvest the keys in spring before the seed has begun to form.
For medicine, the leaves should be gathered in June and thoroughly dried.
Rowan has superficially similar leaves, but the buds are a clear giveaway.
*Tree & Plant ID Course from Foundation Bushcraft – http://identificationmasterclass.com/
*Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fraxinus_excelsior
*Woodland Trust – https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/native-trees/ash/