ASH1 (Ger. Esche), a common name (Fr. fréne) given to certain trees. The common ash (Fraxinus excelsior) belongs to the natural order Oleaceae, the olive family, an order of trees and shrubs which includes lilac, privet and jasmine. The Hebrew word Oren, translated “ash” in Isaiah xliv. 14, cannot refer to an ash tree, as that is not a native of Palestine, but probably refers to the Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis). The ash is a native of Great Britain and the greater part of Europe, and also extends to Asia. The tree is distinguished for its height and contour, as well as for its graceful foliage. It attains a height of from 50 to 80 ft., and flowers in March and April, before the leaves are developed. The reddish flowers grow in clusters, but are not showy. They are naked, that is without sepals or petals, and generally imperfect, wanting either stamens or pistil. The large leaves, which are late in appearing, are pinnately compound, bearing four to seven pairs of gracefully tapering toothed leaflets on a slender stalk. The dry winged fruits, the so-called keys, are a characteristic feature and often remain hanging in bunches long after the leaves have fallen in autumn. The leaves fall early, but the greyish twigs and black buds render the tree conspicuous in winter and especially in early spring.
The ash is in Britain next in value to the oak as a timber-tree. It requires a good deep loam with gravelly subsoil, and a situation naturally sheltered, such as the steep banks of glens, rivers or lakes; in cold and wet clay it does not succeed. As the value of the timber depends chiefly on its toughness and elasticity, it is best grown in masses where the soil is good; the trunk is thus drawn up free from large side-branches. The tree is easily propagated from seeds; it throws up strong root shoots. The ash requires much light, but grows rapidly, and its terminal shoots pierce easily through thickets of beech, with which it is often associated. Unmixed ash plantations are seldom satisfactory, because the foliage does not sufficiently cover the ground; but when mixed with beech it grows well, and attains great height and girth. Owing to the dense mass of roots which it sends out horizontally a little beneath the surface of the ground, the ash does much harm to vegetation beneath its shade, and is therefore obnoxious as a hedgerow tree. Coppice shoots yield excellent hop-poles, crates, hoops, whip-handles, &c. The timber is much used for agricultural implements, and by coach-builders and wheelwrights.
A variety of the common species, known as var. heterophylla, has simple leaves. It occurs wild in woods in Europe and England. Another variety of ash (pendula) is met with in which the branches are pendulous and weeping. Sometimes this variety is grafted on the tall stem of the common ash, so as to produce a pleasing effect. It is said that the weeping variety was first observed at Gamlingay, in Cambridgeshire. A variety (crispa) occurs with curled leaves, and another with warty stems and branches, called verrucosa. F. Ornus is the manna ash (see Manna), a handsome tree with greenish-white flowers and native in south Europe. In southern Europe there is a small-leaved ash, called Fraxinus parvifolia. F. floribunda, a large tree with terminal panicles of white flowers, is a native of the Himalayas. In America there are several species—such as Fraxinus americana, the white ash; F. pubescens, the red ash; and F. sambucifolia, the black ash.
The “mountain ash” belongs to a totally different family from the common ash. It is called Pyrus Aucuparia, and belongs to the natural order Rosaceae, and the tribe Pomeae, which includes also apples, pears, &c. Its common name is probably due to its resemblance to the true ash, in its smooth grey bark, graceful ascending branches, and especially the form of the leaf, which is also pinnately compound but smaller than in the true ash. Its common name in Scotland is the rowan tree; it is well known by its clusters of white blossoms and succulent scarlet fruit. The name of poison ash is given to Rhus venenata, the North American poison elder or sumach, belonging to the Anacardiaceae (Cashew family). The bitter ash of the West Indies is Simaruba excelsa, which belongs to the natural order Simarubaceae. The Cape ash is Ekebergia capensis, belonging to the natural order Meliaceae, a large tree, a native of the Cape of Good Hope. The prickly ash, Xanthoxylon Clava-Herculis (nat. ord. Xanthoxyleae), a native of the south-eastern United States, is a small tree, the trunk of which is studded with corky tubercles, while the branches are armed with stout, sharp, brown prickles.
1 The homonym, ash or (pl.) ashes, the residue (of a body, &c.) after burning, is a common Teutonic word, Ger. Asche, connected with the root found in Lat. ardere, to burn.
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