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Botanical Name: Fraxinus excelsior
Species: F. excelsior
Common Names: Ash, or European ash or Common ash
Habitat : Fraxinus excelsior is native to most of Europe from Portugal to Russia, with the exception of northern Scandinavia and southern Iberia. It is also considered native in southwestern Asia from northern Turkey east to the Caucasus and Alborz mountains. The northernmost location is in the Trondheimsfjord region of Norway. The species is widely cultivated and reportedly naturalized in New Zealand and in scattered locales in the United States and Canada (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Ontario, Ohio, Kentucky and British Columbia). It grows in forming woods on calcareous soils in the wetter parts of Britain, also in oakwoods, scrub, hedges etc. It is also often found on acid soils.
Fraxinus excelsior is a large deciduous tree growing to 20–35 m (66–115 ft) (exceptionally to 46 m or 151 ft) tall with a trunk up to 2 m (6.6 ft) (exceptionally to 3.5 m or 11 ft) diameter, with a tall, domed crown. The bark is smooth and pale grey on young trees, becoming thick and vertically fissured on old trees. The shoots are stout, greenish-grey, with jet black buds (which distinguish it from most other ash species, which have grey or brown buds). The leaves are 20–35 cm (7.9–13.8 in) long, pinnate compound, with 7-13 leaflets, the leaflets 3–12 cm (1.2–4.7 in) long and 0.8–3 cm (0.31–1.18 in) broad, sessile on the leaf rachis, and with a serrated margin. The leaves are often among the last to open in spring, and the first to fall in autumn if an early frost strikes; they have no marked autumn colour, often falling dull green. The flowers open before the leaves, the female flowers being somewhat longer than the male flowers; they are dark purple, and without petals, and are wind-pollinated. Both male and female flowers can occur on the same tree, but it is more common to find all male and all female trees; a tree that is all male one year can produce female flowers the next, and similarly a female tree can become male. The fruit is a samara 2.5–4.5 cm (0.98–1.77 in) long and 5–8 mm (0.20–0.31 in) broad, often hanging in bunches through the winter; they are often called ‘ash keys’. 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)
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. There are several examples over 4.5 metres (14.8 ft) in Derbyshire alone.
Landscape Uses:Firewood, Pollard, Specimen. Prefers a deep loamy soil, even if it is on the heavy side. Most members of this genus are gross feeders and require a rich soil. Plants can succeed in very exposed positions, including maritime exposure, though they can become wind-shaped. Thrives in alkaline soils but not in shallow soils over chalk. Tolerates a pH as low as 4.5, but prefers a base-rich soil above 5.5. Trees are surprisingly tolerant of seasonally water-logged soils. Dislikes dryness at the roots, especially in late spring. Very intolerant of shade, young plants fail to develop properly in such a position and often die. Although the dormant plant is very cold-hardy, the young growth in spring, even on mature plants, is frost-tender and so it is best to grow the plants in a position sheltered from the early morning sun. A fast growing tree, it is sometimes cultivated for its valuable timber. Very tolerant of cutting, ash was also at one time frequently coppiced for its wood. However, modern use of plastics have reduced its economic values. There are many named varieties, selected for their ornamental value. Trees have a light canopy and cast little shade. A food plant for many insect species, there are 41 associated insect species. Trees can be male, female, monoecious or hermaphrodite, they can also change sex from year to year. Trees take 30 – 40 years to flower from seed. The flowers are produced on one-year old wood. This species is notably resistant to honey fungus. Special Features: Not North American native, Inconspicuous flowers or blooms.
The seed is best harvested green – as soon as it is fully developed but before it has fully dried on the tree – and can then be sown immediately in a cold frame. It usually germinates in the spring. Stored seed requires a period of cold stratification and is best sown as soon as possible in a cold frame. Approximately 5% of stored seed will germinate in the first year, the remainder germinating in the second year. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a cold frame for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions or a nursery bed in late spring or early summer of the following year. If you have sufficient seed then it is possible to sow it directly into an outdoor seedbed, preferably in the autumn. Grow the seedlings on in the seedbed for 2 years before transplanting either to their permanent positions or to nursery beds. Cuttings of mature wood, placed in a sheltered outdoor bed in the winter, sometimes strike.
Edible Uses : Immature seed – usually pickled by steeping in salt and vinegar, and then used as a condiment for other foods. The leaves are sometimes used as an adulterant for tea. A manna is obtained from the tree. No further details are available. An edible oil similar to sunflower (Helianthus annuus) oil is obtained from the seed.
The leaves are astringent, cathartic, diaphoretic, mildly diuretic, laxative and purgative. The 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.
Taken regularly, the ash is said to prevent the recurrence of bouts of malaria and is a substitute for quinine. It is also said to be excellent for treatment of arthritic conditions. The seeds, including their wings, have been used as a carminative.
Dye; Fuel; Oil; Shelterbelt; String; Tannin; Wood.
A green dye is obtained from the leaves. The bark is a source of tannin. A tying material can be obtained from the wood (does this mean the bark?). Very tolerant of extreme exposure and relatively fast growing, though often windshaped in exposed positions, it can be grown as a shelterbelt tree. However, it is late coming into leaf and also one of the first trees to lose its leaves in the autumn and this makes it less suitable in a shelter belt. Wood – hard, light, flexible, strong, resilient. A very valuable wood, it is much used for tool handles, oars, furniture, posts etc. An excellent fuel, burning well even when green. There is some doubt over how well the green wood burns with several people claiming that it needs to be properly seasoned.
In the 13th century Edda and other writing relating to Norse mythology, a mythological ash tree called Yggdrasil serves as the center of the world. Though traditionally Yggdrasill was often seen as a giant ash tree, many scholars do now agree that in the past an error has been made in the interpretation of the ancient writings, and that the tree is most likely an European yew (Taxus baccata). This mistake would find its origin in an alternative word for the yew tree in the Old Norse, namely Needle Ash (barraskr). In addition, ancient sources, including the Eddas, write about a vetgrønster vida which means “evergreen tree”. An ash sheds its leaves in the winter, while yew trees retain their needles.
It is recorded that on the Isle of Bute in Scotland lovers used to eat leaves of an ash tree known at the “Dreamin’ Tree” that grew near the church of St Blane and the pleasant dreams they then experienced revealed their actual spouses and intended fates.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.