Forestry Commission logo

Common ash - fraxinus excelsior








Ash is a native broadleaf and fairly abundant tree.

Britain has around 130,000 hectares of predominently ash tree woodland addding up to 5.5% of our woods.   Map - ash in GB

England - 105,000 hectares (10.6%)
Scotland - 5,000 hectares (0.4%)
Wales - 19,000 hectares (7.3%)

We estimate there are also around 12 million ash trees outside woods and forests.

When fully grown it is a tall and graceful tree with a light domed canopy. It often grows with other ash trees and tends to grow smaller and thinner in these conditions. The ash has characteristic delicate “leaflets” rather than single leaves.

Age and height

Ash will grows up to 40m and up to 150 years. 


It is naturally found in  Europe, Asia Minor and North Africa.  Ash prefers to grow in deep, moist, well drained and fertile soil.  It also grows best on northern and eastern sides of hills where the atmosphere is moist and cool.  The ash is often associated with Welsh Woodlands which have these good conditions for growth.  It can also survive well near smoke and pollution so is a good urban dweller.

Chalara dieback

Chalara dieback of ash is a serious disease of ash trees caused by a fungus called Hynenoscyphus fraxineus. The disease causes leaf loss and crown dieback in affected trees, and usually leads to tree death.

Wildlife around the Ash

The ash has high conservation value.  The airy canopy and short leaf stay allow a lot of sunlight through to the woodland floor and hence a rich and varied ground flora can grow, such as wild garlic and dogs mercury.
This also means plenty of food to allow a wide variety of insects and birds.  In upland ash woods the high brown fritillary butterfly may be seen.  Birds such as bullfinch enjoy the seeds and woodcocks, woodpeckers, redstarts and the nuthatch can find plenty of good nesting sites.  In mixed ash woodlands you may even see a dormouse!        


People have used the hardwood timber of ash for many years.  Its timber is one of the toughest and a natural shock absorber. The wood can take a hard blow without splintering and so is used where strength and flexibility are needed.

Ash wood today

Used for tool and sport handles: hammers, axes, spades, hockey sticks and oars. The attractive grain, the strength and the way it can be easily bent means that Ash is also widely used for furniture. Old uses include skis, tent pegs, horse drawn coach and cart building and agricultural implements.

Ash can also be grown as “coppice” which means the trunk and branches can be cut and new branches will grow again.  This gives smaller diameter wood which can be cut more often and was very good for firewood and charcoal in the past.  This type of management for trees is growing popular again.


Last updated: 09/22/2015

What's of interest

Through history the Ash has played a key role. This tree was thought to have medicinal and mystical properties and the wood was burnt to ward off evil spirits. This could be why it was referred to as the “Tree of Life” in Norse Viking mythology. Even today the Ash is sometimes known as the “Venus of the woods” suggesting a magical link to life.

Related pages

Useful sites