Ash (All About)
Saint Patrick is said to have driven the snakes out of Ireland with an ash stick, and the ash tree has had a special place in Ireland ever since. Whether or not this story is true, it is certainly true that hurlies are made from ash and these definitely have a special Irish significance, ever since Setanta drove a ball down the throat of Culann’s hound with one and had to replace him himself, thus acquiring the name Cúchulainn!Read moreRead less
Ash is a canopy tree which can grow very tall, it once formed great woodlands together with elm on good limestone soil in Ireland long ago. These woodlands were cleared for agriculture over the centuries and the ash is now mainly found as a hedgerow tree and as a tall tree in parks in cities and towns. It is the very last tree to get its leaves, usually waiting until the month of May for the characteristic black buds to open.
The leaves are compound leaves with up to thirteen leaflets on each leaf. The flowers are wind-pollinated so these appear from the flower buds in early April before the leaves appear. The pollen can thus be dispersed by the wind without being hindered by leaves. The seeds are known as keys. They occur in bunches on the tree, remain there long after the leaves have fallen and as they each have a ‘wing’ they are dispersed by the wind.
Ash is a native species that supports 41 different insect species. A good way to examine these is to shake a well-leaved bough in mid June or in early September into an upturned umbrella and see what emerges. In ancient Irish tradition, the ash was a very valued tree and was considered to be one of the seven nobles of the woods as its valuable timber could be used for building, and making furniture.
Things to do
1. Find an ash tree near to the school and bring the class out to see it in each of the four seasons. In spring they can make a drawing of the twigs with black buds. In April they can find one with flowers open. In May they can note the date when the large terminal bud opens revealing the leaves.
By the end of May they should be able to add a drawing of the leaf to their account of the ash tree. In September they can observe the seeds. These can be planted immediately and some of them at least will germinate the following spring. In winter they can make a bark rubbing with paper and a soft pencil. Mature ash trees have a very rough bark.