Ash Tree

Ash Summary

I remember my dad telling me that the Ash tree was a good wood for burning on the fire. Freshly cut Ash doesn't tend to smoke

My dad was right about the burning of Ash.

Ash wood lights and burns easily, so, is often used to start barbeques and fires. It isn’t the hottest burning though and only creates a moderate heat. However, the use of Ash as firewood is being discouraged in the US to stop the spread of the emerald ash borer.

The most commonly found Ash tree throughout the UK and most of Europe is known scientifically as Fraxinus Excelsior . However, there are more than 65 different species across the world with North America having 18 native species.

The majority of the species are deciduous, with most varieties being medium to large trees.

A lot of objects are made from the wood, furthermore, as a hardwood, it is very strong, but it is also very elastic. Therefore, it is used to make things that require strength like baseball bats, tool handles even wooden bows. Likewise, it is often used for the manufacture of electric guitars, but less so for the acoustic variation.

Ash is considered second rate to Oak but is still often used to make furniture, incidentally, due to its properties makes an ideal material for staircases.

In times gone by it was a popular material in coach work even for old cars and aeroplanes.

Quick Facts

Scientific Name

Fraxinus excelsior – European Ash

Fruit

“Keys” – Helicopter seeds

Mature Height

Up to 35 meters Tall (115ft)

Age

150-200 Years

What else is it known as?

The most common Ash variety found in the UK has the Scientific name Fraxinus excelsior, but is often known as simply “Ash” or sometimes the common ash or the European ash.

In Northern America out of the 18 native species the most common are:

  • White ash tree (Fraxinus americana)
  • Black ash tree (Fraxinus nigra)
  • Green ash tree (Fraxinus pennsylvanica)
  • Arizona ash tree (Fraxinus velutina)
  • Texas ash tree (Fraxinus albicans)
European ash tree

What is the size of the tree?

It depends on very much on the species. However, most species grow between 15 – 24 meters (50-80 ft). Because it is common for ash to grow together in small coppices it is common for them to create a domed canopy, so the trees at the centre being taller than the trees to the outside. Some ash can grow to 35 meters (115 ft)

European Ash = 21-24 meters (70-80 ft)
White Ash = 18-24 Meters (60-80 ft)

Black Ash = 15-20 meters (50-65 ft)
Green Ash = 15-21 Meters (50-70 ft)
Arizona Ash = 9 – 15 Meters (30-50 ft)
Texas Ash = 10 meters (32 ft)

What are the fruits or seeds?

Once t pollinated by the wind, seeds grow from the female flowers

The seeds develop into winged “keys”. Therefore, people will often call the seeds - helicopter seeds (scientifically they are a type of samara), due to the way they grows and due to the way they fall to the ground.

The wing, especially in a breeze, can take the seed some distance from the tree that it grew on.

Ash trees are dioecious, that is, individual trees grow either male or female flowers. There are instances however, where a single tree may have male and female flowers on separate branches.

The flowers of both sexes on the European Ash are purple appearing in spring before the leaves. Other Ash trees have flowers of purples, reds, whites and green/yellow.

What do the leaves look like?

The European Ash grows pinnately compound (feather like arising from both sides of a stem) leaves, that comprise of 3-6 pairs of light green oval leaflets that grow opposite to each other

Other Ash trees can grow with pairs of five to nine or even up to thirteen leaflet pairs. Usually, the leaflets are about 7-12 cm long (3-5 in) forming a leaf that is 20-30cm (8-12 in) long.

The underneath of the leaves is usually a lighter green than the top side, which will be darker.

What does the bark look like?

The bark across species can vary in colour. The texture however is often similar, younger trees will have a smooth surface and as the tree ages shallow fissures will develop in a diamond pattern making the bark rougher.

How to identify the Ash?

The easiest way to determine an Ash is the combination of the leaf pattern and the bark. The tree tends to grow opposing branches with a matching branch on the opposite side of the tree. The helicopter seed is a giveaway too.

Rowan trees and mountain ashes have similar leaves, however, they are unrelated. The Elder is often mistaken for the Ash as they have similar leaves

What wildlife is the Ash valuable to?

As ash have an airy canopy, they often let sunlight to the forest floor this means that flowers can often grow underneath them. In the UK that is ideal conditions for dog violet, wild garlic and dog’s mercury, which in turn support many insects and butterfly.

Some birds favour the seeds including the bullfinch in the UK. It is a favourite nesting tree for woodpeckers, owls, and nut hatches.

Unfortunately, the Ash is a favourite to species that will actually kill off the tree.

In the UK, the Ash is threatened by ash dieback which is a disease caused by a fungus called Hymenoscyphus fraxineus.

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