Learn about the ash tree and how ash tree surgery can help you care for one in our quick ash tree guide.

What is an ash tree?

Ash is the third most common tree in Britain, it can live for up to four hundred years, more if coppiced. The wood of the ash tree is commonly used for tool handles and baseball bats where its ability to resist shock without splintering is valued.

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

The history of the ash tree

In earlier times the ash tree was thought to have medicinal and mystical properties and the wood was burned to ward off evil spirits. In Norse Viking mythology, ash was referred to as the ‘Tree of Life’. In Britain ash has been referred to as a healing tree.

The ash is often the last tree to come into leaf in the spring, especially if the weather is cold and the sun doesn’t shine as ash trees are responsive to light.

The ash tree was thought to have medicinal and mystical properties and the wood was burned to ward off evil spirits. In Norse Viking mythology, ash was referred to as the ‘Tree of Life’. Even today it is sometimes known as the ‘Venus of the woods’. In Britain we regarded ash as a healing tree.

How ash dieback has affected ash trees

In recent years the ash has come under threat from the fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus causing the condition known as ash dieback. It blocks the water transport systems in trees causing leaf loss, lesions in the wood and on the bark and ultimately the dieback of the crown of the tree.

This disease was first described in Poland in 1992 and has since swept westwards throughout Europe. It was first identified in Britain in 2012 in nursery stock then in the wider environment in 2013 although it could have been in the country much longer.

The number of confirmed findings is continuing to increase and the distribution is reported by the Forestry Commission on a regular basis.

Young trees are particularly vulnerable and die quickly once they succumb. Older trees can be slowly killed by a yearly cycle of infection. Spread of the disease in the UK is most likely to be as a result of the planting of infected nursery stock and wood but wind-borne distribution of the fungal spores also occurs.

Signs of ash dieback to watch out for

There are several key signs to look out for, for example, saplings have dead tops and side shoots. In mature trees, dieback of twigs and branches in the crown, often with bushy growth further down the branches where new shoots have been produced

All of these symptoms can also be caused by other problems, so final diagnosis should be made by an expert tree surgeon. Summer is a good time to look for symptoms as in autumn and winter, ash trees will naturally be shedding their leaves making it difficult to identify ash dieback.

One hopeful sign is that British ash trees seem to have better resistance ash dieback than those in mainland Europe according to research which has decoded the DNA of the species for the first time.

Get a free quote for ash tree surgery in London

The tree surgeons at Take a Bough Tree Care are experienced in providing tree care in London’s busy streets and can offer expert advice on the care and maintenance of your ash trees and can remove any trees deemed unsafe or requiring removal due to disease.

Take A Bough Tree Care would be delighted to offer free, expert advice on any aspect of ash tree care and work in the following areas – the London Boroughs of Wandsworth, Lambeth, Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, Merton and Kingston as well as the towns of BatterseaClapham, Chelsea, BalhamFulham, Putney, Earlsfield, Southfields, Wimbledon, Kingston, Stockwell, Roehampton and Streatham and Elmbridge Borough which includes EsherClaygate and Surbiton.

Written by

Toby Douglas is the founder of Take A Bough Tree Care. After university in Aberystwyth, Toby made the decision to study Arboriculture at Merrist Wood, in Surrey. In 2001 he successfully completed a National Certificate in Horticulture, and a National Diploma in Arboriculture, then worked for two years subcontracting to large and respected companies in order to gain the practical experience to compete successfully for both private and corporate contacts once Take a Bough Tree Care was launched

"They were careful to take out the branches through the house without any damage and left the house clean. I would strongly recommend them. "

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