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UK Nature > Trees > Common or European Ash

  • Compound Leaf with opposite oval leaflets plus one terminal leaflet.



Scientific Name: Fraxinus excelsior
Common Name: Common or European Ash

When fully grown, ash trees can reach a height of 35m. Tall and graceful, they often grow together, forming a domed canopy. The bark is pale brown to grey and fissures as the tree ages. The tree is easily identified in winter by its smooth twigs that have distinctive black, velvety leaf buds arranged opposite each other.

The leaves are pinnately compound, typically comprising 3–6 opposite pairs of light green, oval leaflets with tips up to 40cm long. There is an additional singular 'terminal' leaflet at the end. The leaves can move in the direction of sunlight, and sometimes the whole crown of the tree may lean in the direction of the sun. Another characteristic of ash leaves is that they fall when they are still green.

Ash is dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers typically grow on different trees, although a single tree can also have male and female flowers on different branches. Both male and female flowers are purple and appear before the leaves in spring, growing in spiked clusters at the tips of twigs.

Once the female flowers have been pollinated by wind, they develop into conspicuous winged fruits, or 'keys', in late summer and autumn. They fall from the tree in winter and early spring, and are dispersed by birds and mammals.










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