Monday, March 22, 2010

American Hardwoods: Ash


From the olive and lilac family, comes a medium to large flowering tree whose common English name is Ash. Meaning 'spear' in the Old English language, the Ash were known as the 'Widow Maker' because their large boughs would often drop without warning.

Rarely in whorls of 3, the leaves of the Ash are opposite and pinnately-compound. The keys or whirlygig seeds are a fruit with wings that catch the wind to carry the seed far away from the parent tree. Identifying an Ash tree is simple. Just by looking at it's branches that are directly opposite one another and grow from the same point, and 5-7 leaflets on each compound leaf.

The 'World Tree' from Norse mythology, when the first man, Ask, was formed from the Ash tree. But today, 7 billion Ash trees in North America are threatened by an introduced species of wood-boring beetles from Asia. The public is being cautioned not to transport unfinished wood (like firewood) to slow the spread of this destructive pest.

The thick, raised bark of the Ash forms a diamond pattern in mature trees. A young Ash has a smoother surface and thinner shell.

The wood of the Ash is prized for it's flexibility and ease of handling. Everything from musical instruments to architectural millwork to flooring, Ash machines well and is good in nailing, screwing and gluing. It's particularly suitable for food containers since there's no odor or taste.

The American Hardwoods series on Edge of the Wildwood continues next week with Aspen. Join us for a complete profile of 20 distinctive tree species and know your wood:)

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