Awakening Ash

I have been patiently waiting for the ash (Fraxinus excelsior) tree in my local park to break open its buds. It has done so over the last two weeks and I am glad I did keep a close eye on it as the birth of its leaflets is quite a beautiful process to watch.

With the prospect of the spread of ash dieback increasing over the next few years I wanted to capture this process I have for so long taken for granted. I am studying plants this year in far more detail as part of the online course with Paul Kirtley from Frontier Bushcraft.

The buds of ash are typically black (likened to the shape of a bishop’s mitre) over the winter as they lie dormant and it is only as they are about to ‘break’ (when the green leaf tip first appears) that the bud changes to a slightly greenish tinge.

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The black ‘bishop’s mitre’ ash bud

Here you can see the bud on the left is about to break and the ones on the right have just broken.

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From black to green and the breaking starts

After this the growing leaves push out from the bud but are wrapped in a protective sheath. I am unsure what this sheath is called but hopefully someone who reads this can tell me. I liken it to an inner scale of the bud.

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Truly broken out now

Once released from the bud you can clearly see the inner protective scale that is wrapped around the ash leaves. In the right hand picture you can just make out the small ash leaflets that are growing.

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Ash leaves are wrapped in their inner scales

As the leaves and their attached leaflets push up, the inner protective scales are pushed aside to allow more growth to occur.

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Inner scales are released

I noticed at this stage that the leaves continued to grow but still had a stickiness about them that kept them together. This causes the leaves to form into what looks like a small rugby ball.

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Ready for the final stretch

Finally the leaves were unfolded (that is when their full length is showing from tip to attachment at the stem).

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The individual stems have separated and the leaves have unfolded

The individual leaflets then parted from each other; all that is left now is for them to grow to maturity.

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The ash leaflets finally appear

I have noticed that the oak leaves round here have appeared a few weeks before the ash this year so if the old saying – ‘If the oak before the ash, then we’ll only have a splash, if the ash before the oak, then we’ll surely have a soak” – is correct then we should be in for a nice summer (here’s hoping, anyway).

All in all I think that this is a particularly beautiful sight and if you go out around now and look at some of the ash trees you will see it happening for yourself.

I have done a similar post called Stunning Sycamore if you’d like to see more of these amazing unfurling leaves.

Cheers

George

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