Manna Ash Fraxinus ornus


The manna ash is a tree of south-eastern Europe, where it grows south of the Alps and Carpathians. It occurs in Spain and southern France, but the chief centre of its distribution is Italy and the Balkan Peninsula, where it is found on dry, sun-warmed slopes in oak forests. In the northern areas of its range, it occurs chiefly on limestone soils. In the mountains it may be found at elevations up to 1200 metres.

The manna ash is a small tree reaching a height of only 10 to 20 metres. The bark is grey and covered with warts, the buds are greyish violet. The flowers, unlike those of other ashes, have narrow white petals and the samaras are smaller than those of the common ash.

The manna ash thrives on well-drained soils that are exposed to strong sunlight in the summer. It is, however, tolerant of soil conditions and will grow in cooler climates. It is an important tree in the afforestation of karst areas and dry slopes devastated by grazing. In former times, the liquid “manna” (sap) yielded by the bark was used for pharmaceutical purposes in Italy. Today, however, its production is greatly limited. The attractive, fragrant flowers of this tree make it a popular ornamental in parks.

Leaves: 15—20 cm long, odd-pinnate, composed of 2—4 pairs of broadly ovate, irregularly toothed leaflets 3—7 cm long. Flowers: Usually diocciously borne in large panicles with 4 narrow white petals. Fruit: A narrowly-oblong samara, 2—2.5 cm long, and having a notched wing.