Ash tree, Fraxinus excelsior. Getty Images

Fraxinus excelsior

Ash tree

  • Botanical name: Fraxinus excelsior
  • Common name: Ash tree
  • Family: Oleaceae
  • Plant Type: Tree, Deciduous
Foliage colour:

Green

The Ash tree, Fraxinus excelsior, is a fast-growing deciduous tree, native to the U.K. and Europe. The wood is tough, popular for making tool and sports handles, and furniture. A large tree, it needs plenty of space if grown as a specimen tree and is only suitable for very large gardens or wild/woodland areas. However it’s possible to grow ash in smaller spaces by coppicing (cutting back to the ground in winter) or as part of a hedge.

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Fraxinus excelsior forms a tall, domed head of branches and is easily identified by its large green leaves divided into eight to 12 leaflets that turn yellow in autumn before falling. Bark is smooth and pale brown to grey, and conspicuous black buds are arranged opposite each other along the stems, most visible in winter. Through autumn, winged seeds are borne in clusters, these are designed to spin through the air and spread themselves widely, so if there’s an ash tree in your area, watch out for self-sown seedlings and remove them as soon as possible. Ash is fast-growing and reaches much of its mature size in around 25 years.

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However, Fraxinus excelsior is not a good planting choice currently, due to Ash Dieback Disease (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus). This has become widespread in many areas of the U.K. and poses a serious threat to ash trees. Symptoms include black lesions on stems, black blotches on leaves, and extensive dieback of shoots and branches. This disease attacks plants only in the Oleaceae family, which includes the garden shrubs Phillyrea and Chionanthus. Affected trees become unstable and usually need felling to avoid becoming a danger to life.

How to grow Fraxinus excelsior

  • Plant size

    300m height

    20m spread

  • Aspect

    North facing, south facing, east facing, west facing

  • Position in border

    Back

  • Sun exposure: Full shade, partial shade
  • Hardiness: Hardy
  • Soil type: Chalky / alkaline / clay / heavy / moist / well drained / light / sandy

Plant calendar

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
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Plant

Do Plant in January

Do Plant in February

Do Plant in March

Do not Plant in April

Do not Plant in May

Do not Plant in June

Do not Plant in July

Do not Plant in August

Do not Plant in September

Do Plant in October

Do Plant in November

Do Plant in December

Fraxinus excelsior and wildlife

Fraxinus excelsior is known for attracting birds and butterflies​/​moths. It is a caterpillar food plant, provides shelter and habitat and has seeds for birds.

Does not attract Bees

Does not attract Beneficial insects

Attractive to Birds

Attractive to Butterflies​/​Moths

Does not attract Other pollinators

Is Fraxinus excelsior poisonous?

Fraxinus excelsior has no toxic effects reported.

No reported toxicity to:

No reported toxicity to Birds

No reported toxicity to Cats

No reported toxicity to Dogs

No reported toxicity to Horses

No reported toxicity to Livestock

No reported toxicity to People