Fraxinus excelsior — European ash – is a species of Fraxinus native to most of Europe.
It is a large deciduous tree growing to 20–35 m tall with a trunk up to 2 m diameter, with a tall, domed crown.
The bark is smooth and pale grey on young trees, becoming thick and vertically fissured on old trees. The shoots are stout, greenish-grey, with jet black buds. The leaves are 20–35 cm long, pinnate compound, with 7-13 leaflets, the leaflets 3–12 cm long and 0.8–3 cm broad. The leaves are often among the last to open in spring, and the first to fall in autumn if an early frost strikes; they have no marked autumn colour, often falling dull green.
The resilience and rapid growth made it an important resource for smallholders and farmers. It was probably the most versatile wood in the countryside with wide-ranging uses. Until World War II the trees were often coppiced on a ten year cycle to provide a sustainable source of timber for fuel and poles for building and woodworking.
The colour of the wood ranges from creamy white through light brown, and the heart wood may be a darker olive-brown. Ash timber is hard, tough and very hard-wearing. Ash wood is the traditional material for bows, tool handles, especially for hammers and axes, tennis rackets and snooker cue sticksand it was extensively used in the construction of early aircraft. Ash is valuable as firewood because it burns well even when freshly cut.
Ash was coppiced, often in hedgerows, and evidence in the form of some huge boles with multiple trunks emerging at head height can still be seen in parts of Britain.