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Xela's Garden

Ash [S]

Genus: Fraxinus.

Species: Fraxinus excelsior.

The large, vigorous ash tree is deciduous and thrives best on moist, base-rich soils. It is fast growing and long-lived. Older ash trees are recognisable by their downward curving twigs and branches. The foliage is a distinctive arrangement of pinnate, oval leaves. The twigs are a smooth grey-green, with fat black buds in winter and spring. The purplish flowers appear before the leaves. The tree is wind-pollinated in April and May. The winged seeds or 'ash keys' are borne in clusters in summer and autumn. It is a big tree which needs the space of a large garden.

The common ash and the wild privet are the only two representatives in England of the olive family Oleaceae.


The ash is native to Britain. It is usually one of the last trees to burst into leaf.

Ash wood is a traditional material for tool handles, tennis rackets and snooker cues; it is also used as firewood because it burns well even when 'green' (freshly cut). Ash was coppiced, often in hedgerows, and evidence in the form of some huge boles with multiple trunks emerging at head height can still be see in parts of Wales.

The leaves of the ash tree are often among the last to open (and the first to fall if an early frost strikes); the flowers open beforehand, the female flowers being somewhat longer than the male flowers. Both male (inset in the picture below) and female flowers can occur on the same tree, but it is common to find all male and all female trees.

Surprisingly, a tree that is all male one year can produce female flowers the next, and similarly a female tree can become male. The female flowers develop into fruits, and because they hang in bunches the fruits of the ask tree are known as 'ash keys'.


Photos of this plant