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Fraxinus excelsiorCommon Ash

By Leanne Downs9 September 2019

Common Ash or Fraxinus excelsior is native to the UK. It is part of the family Oleaceae which Olive and Lilac trees also belong to. They can live for well in excess of 400 years.

Where can I find Ash Trees?

Ash trees can be found across much of Europe. They are the most common tree in the Kent Downs in the South East, though in recent years they have been threatened by ‘Ash Dieback’ which is a disease that has been spreading across Europe and the UK. It was first detected in 2012 and in the space of only 4 year spread across much of the country.

How to identify Ash trees

Ash trees have pinnate leaves which grow in opposite pairs of 3 to 6 with one at the end, They are long (up to 40cm in length) mid-green and pointed. They do not change colour in Autumn and they appear in late spring.  In the winter, ash can be identified by observing the ends of its twigs, which have black buds on the tips. It’s bark is pale silvery grey. The winged seeds of female trees hang in bunches, known as ‘keys’ as they loosely look like a bunch of keys.

The ash keys can be pickled and eaten | Ash can be identified by its black buds in winter

Uses for Ash

Ash is traditionally coppiced and used for charcoal and firewood. It burns well even when green. It is also home to the King Alfred’s Cake fungus which is specific to this tree and used for fire lighting. The wood from this tree is one of the hardest, making it good for use in making handles for tools and sport, as well as furniture.

The Ash ‘Keys’ can be pickled and eaten, and the young shoots can be added raw to salads. Young leaves can be used to make teas and the sap has also been used traditionally to make wine.

Leanne Downs

About Leanne Downs

Leanne Downs is the content editor for Thryve and works as an outdoor writer, blogger and photographer. She loves hiking, hillwalking and wild camping.

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Foraging and Wild Cooking