European Ash

Fraxinus excelsior

Fraxinus excelsior is commonly known as Ash, European or Common Ash. It is a large deciduous tree that can be over 40 meters in height. It is native to Europe. The leaves are often the last to open in Spring and the first to fall in Autumn. It can be distinguished from other members of the family by its black buds. The flat seed buds dangle in dense bunches called ‘ash keys’. They rarely exceed 250 years in age.

Its rapid growth and resilience meant it was widely used providing building timber and firewood as well as tool handles and bows, tennis rackets and snooker cues. It was widely coppiced on a ten year cycle.

It is sad that over the last decade ash ‘dieback’ has spread across Europe including the UK. This is caused by a fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus. Resistance does occur but is neither common nor strong. Work is underway to sequence the genome of several resistant trees.

Funky Facts File: Male and female flowers can appear on one tree, however, it is more common to find just one gender on a tree. But, a tree that is all female one year can be all male the next and vice versa!

Young Ash Northdown Park © Bo Beolens