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The last of the Ash?

Ash and Hawthorn in Netherton.

I wonder how long the ash trees will last - how many will survive the dieback which is decimating them throughout the country. Lots, I hope. The Ash is favourite of mine, and a home and habitat to so many life forms. The bark on them grows smooth and a greenish grey. But when they reach middle and old age (they can live to about 350, but 200 is more usual*) the bark is gnarled and fissured.

Bark on an elderly Ash tree.

The mother ash tree. Netherton.

Two years ago I collected keys from this beauty. I scarified them and they sprouted the following autumn. I planted the seedlings in tetra-packs and pots and they have been busy developing their roots.

Today it was so joyful to take four back to plant near to their mother tree.

Michael Boxall made the stakes, and the cages. Cages to keep off the sheep and deer, little tree guard to protect from voles.

I am sure I could hear a little sigh as all the tight packed roots were freed, and the little sapling was placed near its mother, with every opportunity for it to grow big and strong.

We planted the baby ash saplings in between a row of veteran ash trees.

A barn owl has made its home in one of the trees. In a perfect hole.

Home of a barn owl.

Even if the owl hadn't been spotted, it left evidence of its tenure with the large pellets, dropped on the ground beneath the hole.

Barn Owl pellet. See the tiny bones!

Barn Owl pellet.

This row of veteran Ash is remarkable. None of them appear to be suffering from die-back. Fingers crossed they do not succumb. They have withstood a very windy spot and have flourished. They are covered with moss, and lichens, a great variety of both. Rabbits have their cosy homes beneath.

Some of the trees have died and fallen over the years. The stumps always fascinate me. Look at this one.

Ash stump.

Can you see the three thick metal cables? Look what has happened.

At some time in the past, a fence has been attached to this poor tree. The Ash has no option but to grow around the metal. Notice all the lovely lichen on the Ash stump.

The tree stump with metal through the trunk.

Ash Dieback

There are lots of people looking into the best way to deal with the imminent demise of the Ash tree. Some are advocating succession planting with similar trees.

Many animals that feed on ash are also found on hazel, birch, sycamore, oak, and beech trees. However, no one species can ever replace Ash - some scientists recommend planting aspen, alder, field maple, sycamore, birch, rowan, and native oaks. This list shows us that the thinking now is clear - we need diversity - lots of different tree species.

*The Glen Lyon Ash, in Perthshire, is the largest and oldest Ash Tree in Scotland. It is thought to be between 300-400 years old. Its girth measures 6.4 metres.

Glen Lyon Ash, Perthshire. Ancient Ash. Photo: Ancient Tree Inventory

Have you spotted any ash trees with die back? You can report them here:


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