Belfast Botanic Gardens Tree Archive

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This is one of a series of short articles about trees in the Belfast Botanic Gardens compiled by the Friends group. The tree tag number relates to the black tree maintenance tags, usually fixed on the tree trunk, 2 to 3m above ground level.
Family: Oleaceae
Fraxinus excelsior L.
Common ash

Black tag 410
54o 34.898N
5o 55.830W

The ash, one of the commonest field and hedgerow trees in Ireland, is now under threat from the fungal disease,Chalara . It arrived in Ireland after the last ice age, but long after most of the other native trees such as oak and elm, and didn't really become common until about 2000 years ago. In winter the tree is distinctive because in silhouette the branches hang down then turn up at the tips. In close-up it is distinctive because of the sooty black buds (this characteristic not only distinguishes the common ash from other native trees, but also from all other introduced members of the Fraxinus genus). In summer the leaves could be confused with those of walnut and tree of heaven, but the usually abundant fruit, called keys, will serve to distinguish it. Ash provides a useful straight-grained timber that is still much used for tool handles, even in this plastic age. There are several ash trees in the Belfast Botanic Gardens, including a fine specimen near the embankment gate (shown below).

Common ash in Belfast Botanic Gardens

Common ash, branches and fruit

Mature ash tree in Belfast Botanic Gardens Branches of ash in fruit

Common ash, leaf shape


Young ash fruit called keys

Leaf of ash Young ash fruit - called 'keys'

Ash tree bark

Winter ash twig
Characteristic vertically-ridged bark of ash tree Winter bud of common ash

Photos taken in Belfast Botanic Gardens in 2008. Copyright: Friends of Belfast Botanic Gardens.

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