Common Ash Tree identification

The Common Ash Fraxinus excelsior is found throughout Britain, growing naturally in woods, or planted in towns, parks and churchyards. It is one of the biggest hedgerow trees, now that the large Elms have been removed. An ash tree disease called Chalara, has recently been found to have crossed from mainland Europe to the UK. The disease is spread by a fungus and causes leaf loss and crown dieback.

 It is often the last tree to come into leaf in the spring. Common Ash tree identification is by its pinnate leaves in summer, its big black buds in winter and its  fruits, known as a keys,  which hang in bunches on some trees throughout the winter. Flowers are prominent in spring before the leaves. Ash flowers are wind-pollinated and so have no petals. Click on any photo to enlarge it. 

For information on three more types of Ash click HERE


common ash tree

The Common Ash is one of the largest hedgerow trees. Photo taken in August.

common ash tree leaves

Leaf with 9 tooth-edged leaflets. This is a pinnate leaf. There are no buds where the leaflets meet the leaf midrib.

common ash tree buds

Common ash buds are very black, making the tree easy to identify in winter. The lateral buds are in opposite pairs.

common ash tree bark

An old tree with ridged bark.

common ash tree male flowers releasing pollen

Male flowers in March, before the leaves. Ash flowers have no petals. Some trees have only male flowers, some only female and some have flowers that have male and female parts. This photo shows several male flower clusters. On the left the anthers have not yet opened. On the right the flower cluster has expanded and the anthers have split to release yellow pollen.

common ash tree bisexual flowers in March

Bisexual flowers, with male and female parts, in March. This photo 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.

common ash tree female flowers April

Fertilised female flowers in April. The purple keys are just starting to form and the leaves are just coming out.

common ash tree keys

Ash fruits, known as keys, hang down in bunches. The keys turn brown in autumn and stay on the tree all winter. Each fruit is technically called a samara. The fruit of Maples are also samaras. The word refers to any dry fruit which has flattened wings attached to it to help in its wind dispersion.