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Ash and Acorns

Updated: May 4, 2021

Well, we (the volunteers) can’t do much at the moment in terms of physical work. Instead, I wanted to keep in touch with a bit of information and what we could be looking to grow in our nursery, for the West Wittering Tree Nursery Project. We can become learned volunteers, if nothing else!

I don’t know about you, but one of my favourite trees is the Ash tree (Fraxinus excelsior or Venus of the Woods). It belongs to the same family as the olive and lilac and, in fact, produces an oil that is chemically similar to olive oil.

Illustration of Common Ash Tree, European Ash Tree, Fraxinus excelsior

European Ash tree, Fraxinus excelsior (Zelimir Borzan, University of Zagreb,

The wood is used by humans to make furniture, tennis rackets, snooker cues and even the frame of the British motor – the Morgan. But, to wildlife, this tree is manna from heaven! The plants that grow beneath the ash tree attract the brown fritillary butterfly; dormice love the ash’s understorey; caterpillars of the coronet moth munch on the leaves; bullfinches eat the seeds and woodpeckers, owls, redstarts and nuthatches nest in the Ash tree.

Of course, many of you will have heard of the Ash dieback disease. This is a fungus that came over from Asia. However, there is hope that some trees are developing resistance to the disease and Ash could recover in 50 years’ time.

If you want to grow one, it takes 30 years to produce flowers and lives up to 250 years. A minor problem! Just collect the seeds or “wings” from the tree when they have turned brown. The seeds will need stratifying. What’s this? I hear you say.

Well folks, here’s the real deal on creating a tree nursery. You see, a lot of seeds have a natural defence mechanism built in to ensure they do not grow in the winter months when the seedlings could be killed off by the cold. In fact, they won’t germinate until they have gone through a winter of cold weather. But many seeds only germinate when fresh. So, in many cases, we need to break that seed dormancy period and the main way is stratification.

But don’t be put off! I will cover this in another article, under “S” probably!

I hope this information has tickled the grey cells and that you’ll join me next week when I talk about acorns. Don’t worry, it is one of the few seeds that doesn’t need a wake up call!


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