Common Ash Fraxinus excelsior


The common ash is widely distributed in southern, central and western Europe, the northern boundary of its range extending from Great Britain across Scandinavia to Leningrad and the Volga River. It is most plentiful in lowland forests on alluvial river deposits, and alongside streams. It is also found growing in scree woods in hilly country and high up in the mountains, even at elevations above 1000 metres. It requires rich, moist soil to do really well and often occurs in damp gullies and near streams, though it does not tolerate water-logged situations. Despite this, the common ash is tolerant of soil and situation and, in Britain at least, it often occurs on thin limestone or chalk soils. Although shade-tolerant when young, older trees require abundant light.

The common ash reaches a height of 30 to 35 metres or more under forest conditions, and develops a slender, straight bole with high set crown. It is sensitive to late spring frosts and, when the terminal shoot is damaged, often develops twin stems. In winter, it is easily distinguished by its squat black buds, in summer by the odd-pinnate leaves. The male, female or bisexual flowers, without sepals or petals, appear before the leaves and are pollinated by the wind. The common ash is an important timber tree, and is also planted in parks and evenues. There are several ornamental cultivated varieties, notably F.e. Pendula, with a broad crown of pendulous branches.

Leaves: 20—35 cm long, odd-pinnate, composed of 3—6 pairs of lanceolate, 6—13 cm long leaflets with serrate margins. Flowers: Inconspicuous, borne in panicles before the leaves in April. Fruit: A slightly twisted samara, about 3 cm long with an ellipsoid seed.