Common Ash – Fraxinus Excelsior

The Common Ash belongs to the genus Fraxinus and is a member of the olive family.


Common Ash Tree General Information

It is native to the UK and found widely throughout Europe. For many years it has been used for making tool handles, sports equipment and coach building.

Due to its strength and the way it can easily be bent and having an attractive grain means the Ash is very popular for making good quality furniture and is also used in laminates and plywood. 

Ash coppices very well and makes excellent firewood even when green.

This vigorous tree can live up to 400 years.


Description of a Common Ash Tree

A mostly deciduous, medium to large tree growing up to 45m the Common Ash is usually tall and thin but can have a rounded crown.

The bark is smooth and pale grey when young, becoming fissured with age and has smooth twigs with black velvet buds.

Leaves are dark green and pinnate compound with 7-13 leaflets. Flowering in April and May, these dark purple flowers open before the leaves and are wind pollinated.

Both male and female flowers can occur on the same tree but it is more usual to find all male and all female trees.

A tree that is male one year can become female the next and likewise a female tree can become a male tree.

The fruit hangs in bunches, spinning when they drop rather like a helicopter. Called Samara, they are often referred to as Ash keys.

The seeds mature between August and September and remain on the tree until winter and early spring.


Cultivation of a Common Ash Tree

This tree likes a moist, well drained soil of either chalk, clay or sand. 

The Ash does best in full sun but does not seem to mind which position it faces or if it is exposed or sheltered.


Pests & Diseases

There is a very serious disease that has recently been bought into the UK which threatens the survival of this tree.

A fungus named Chalara Fraxinea, which is commonly referred to as Ash Dieback, causes loss of leafs and crown dieback in affected trees and is usually fatal.

This disease is being treated as a quarantine pest under national emergency measures and any suspected outbreak must be reported.

The best time of year to look for the disease is during August and September.

The leaves, still hanging on the tree will start to wilt and will then turn dark brown to black.

When checking, make sure you do not mistake the leaves for the Ash Keys (fruit) which do turn a dark colour as they mature.

If you think your tree has this disease contact your local authority and or a professional tree surgeon, who will know what to do.


Best Time for Pruning

Most deciduous trees are best pruned in late autumn or winter when they are dormant.


Article was written by Karen Arnold.

Edited by Conner D on 01/07/2019.

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