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Native Irish Ash tree ... Fraxinus excelsior ... Fhuinseog

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James Kilkelly
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 6:14 pm    Post subject: Native Irish Ash tree ... Fraxinus excelsior ... Fhuinseog Reply with quote

Native Irish Ash tree ... Fraxinus excelsior ... Fhuinseog

Our Common Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) is a broad, spreading, deciduous tree growing at a fast rate to 25mtrs in height by 20mtrs spread. This rapid growth and the ability to re-sprout after being coppiced (cut down) made ash a valuable renewable tree to the early Irish. After cutting, the hard wood was allowed to rest and renew for about ten years before the farmer's saw came tearing back for that inevitable second cut.

. Fraxinus excelsior tree,leaf and seed, photo / pic / image.
Fraxinus excelsior / Fhuinseog (European ash)
The leaves are opposite and mostly pinnately-compound
The seeds are popularly known as keys.
Poisonous to cattle and sheep.

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Lamiales
Family: Oleaceae
Genus: Fraxinus
Species: F. excelsior

Chromosome number: 2n=46, 48.

Ash uses in Ireland.
Ash is, and has been one of our most widely planted broadleaves for use as a raw material in the production of coach axles, furniture, tool handles, oars, walking sticks and more recently, snooker cues. Being a favoured wood for the construction of these pieces due to it flexibility, strength and resistance to splitting, it comes as no surprise that ash wood has been used throughout the history of Ireland for making hurleys.

The bottom 1.5 metres of ash tree stem from trees of a diameter at breast height of approximately 30 centimetres is required for the manufacture of quality hurleys. On average the ash tree will need to be 25 to 30 years old to produce top quality hurleys. At a rough estimate, one acre of ash woodland can produce in excess of 1500 hurleys, more than enough to cater for a few unfortunate and sometimes intentional breakages during an All-Ireland final.

Ash branch breakage concerns.

There is no doubting the strength of smooth ash as a working wood; however, the tree itself can be prone to breakage if left unpruned. Without the intervention of the gardener or forester, many branches will tend to originate from the same position on the trunk; this makes them prone to sudden breakage and devastating damage if weighty.

A careful ash grower will endeavour to allow less than fifteen individual main branches to grow from the trunk, all well spaced. Beneath a poorly and dangerously branched ash tree is not the place to park your new Merc or BMW, in my opinion, the ash really is not suitable for car park planting. So, where can we accommodate this native within our site?

Growing needs.
Native Ash can be grown in full sun or partial shade and prefers moist, deep, rich soil. Although, I have seen gardeners succeed in growing the tree in possibly poorly drained and certainly low quality heavy soils. Why not create a beautiful garden picture by planting ash in a woodland section of your garden complete with under plantings of shade tolerant shrubs, perennials and bulbs. Luckily, for its undergrowth, the tree has a light canopy and casts little shade.

Exposed locations and beautiful black buds
Gardeners and farmers can also use ash for planting in exposed or coastal locations, here the tree will succeed but often becomes contorted and shaped by the wind. Don't expect the ash to provide you with much shelter from the wind though, as it is one of the latest trees to leaf up and one of the first to shed. This is an advantage to anything growing beneath ash, as the short leaf time and the trees open crown allows a high level of light to reach the woodland floor.

Even though the leaves only last from May to October, they are quite pretty, being opposite and lance-like with pointed tips. The black leaf buds, however, are my favourite attribute of our native ash, their distinctive black colour providing interest to the garden whilst leafless over winter.

. Ash tree bud detail, photo / pic / image.

Growing information at a glance.
Expected height: 25m / Expected spread: 20m over 50 years
Grow in full sun or partial shade
Tolerant of most soils but prefers a moist, deep, rich soil.
Flowers Dark-purple in Summer, with Green fruit in Autumn
Mainly pest and disease-free.

Other interesting Ash tree facts.

It is estimated that the Ash in Ireland provides support in the form of habitation and food for 41 different insect species.

Frost is not the friend of Ash, as it causes forking of the main stem in young trees, resulting in poor quality stem form.

806 hectares of ash were planted in Ireland. during 1999 alone.

The Irish Forestry Board known as Coillte currently manage around 2,700 hectares of ash in Ireland.

There are over 100 hurley manufacturers in Ireland and twenty of those are commercial producers capable of producing between 10,000 and 20,000 hurleys each year.

Chart shows approximate distribution of the native tree within Ireland, each dot is a 10km square in which the species grows.

Video. See a huge twin stem ash tree.

Video. See an example of Hurling played using hurleys made of ash wood (Up Galway Razz )

Research more in your own time......

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Also try here...... Best Tree Identification Books

Associated content.
Oak and ash leaves predict weather?

Back to native Irish trees.

Ash Images courtesy Zelimir Borzan, University of Zagreb,

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