The ash tree is the third most common tree in Britain, behind the birch and the oak, according to the Woodland Trust. It is found across many different ecological zones, from the Arctic Circle to Turkey, but this staple of the English woodland is currently under threat from a biological attack.
Firstly, let’s identify your ash from your oak, two trees that are often mistaken for one another.
- The bark. Both are grey in colour, though the ash is often lighter, but the oak’s bark has deep vertical cracks in it with the occasional horizontal crack between them, whereas the ash tree has a far smoother trunk with only the oldest of them having vertical wrinkles.
- Leaves. The oak has lobed leaves that cluster, seemingly randomly, around each branchlet, whereas the ash has an even spread of oval leaves in pairs that run down each branchlet.
- Silhouette. An oak is like a round, fluffy cloud of leaves, and the ash is a more vertical, far less densely leaved tree with its branches far more visible throughout its canopy.
In your garden
Ash trees can be very good for gardens. Their airy canopy offers shade from the strongest of the sun’s rays while allowing in light; this airiness also enables wind to pass through the canopy more easily than through trees with thicker canopies, which could be at a greater risk of falling in a storm. The light that ash trees allow through and their early autumnal leaf fall offer the ground below the life-giving elements to feed smaller bushes and plant life all year round, promoting biodiversity.
Threats your Ash may face
First identified in Britain in 2012, ash dieback is caused by a fungus that blocks the water transport systems in trees, causing dark lesions on the bark, rendering the tips of shoots black and shrivelled; the leaves then go brown and die. Ash dieback can be seen spreading from branch to branch, eventually taking over the entire canopy of a tree, spread through spores on the wind.
Young trees can die from this quite quickly, while older trees can survive for years, getting weaker and weaker over time. Symptoms can be seen most clearly in the summertime, but you will need an arborist to diagnose it for you because many of the symptoms are either subtle or similar to other conditions a tree can suffer from.
A few things you may not know about your ash tree
- Because the wood absorbs shocks without splintering it is used as the handle of many tools and sports equipment.
- Ash trees can live for over 400 years.
- In Norse mythology an ash tree was the focal point of nine worlds where the gods met each day.
- The Vikings believed that the ash tree was used by the god Odin in the creation of man.
- It was once believed that if the ash tree did not produce its winged seeds the country’s king or queen would die within a year.
- But then again it was also once believed that if a girl was to put an ash leaf in her left shoe she would soon meet her husband-to-be.
If you would like to talk to an expert about the good health of your ash trees, call us on 0208 292 8992. We’re always happy to pop round or to help with a little advice.