Ash flowers in March

The Common Ash Fraxinus excelsior produces flowers in March before the leaves. Ash trees have a complex reproductive system. The flowers have no petals and may be male, female or bisexual. In any population some trees have only male flowers and produce pollen, some only female flowers and produce seeds and some have  bisexual flowers  and produce pollen and seeds.

Common Ash tree male flowers

The  photo shows male flowers in March, before the leaves. Ash flowers have no petals. This photo of a male flower cluster shows the purple anthers that split open to release pollen onto the wind.

Common Ash tree male/female flowers

The  photo shows flowers that have male and female parts. It shows the female styles and stigmas sticking up above the male anthers. When (male) pollen falls on the (female) stigmas, fertilisation takes place and fruit formation begins. Stigmas on the flower are not receptive to pollen when it is being released by the same flower. This avoids self-fertilisation.

Comon Ash tree female flowers

The photo shows fertilised female flowers in April. The purple fruits are just starting to form and the leaves are just coming out.

Common Ash tree fruit

The  photo shows how the Ash fruits, known as keys, hang down in bunches in July. Each fruit is technically called a samara. The word refers to any dry fruit which has flattened wings attached to it to help in its wind dispersion.