Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The death of the ash tree - Heart Rot

George Monbiot has written on the new threat to our ash trees, having lost so many of our elms to another kind of bug, it would be terrible to lose more trees to what I suppose we might call globalisation, plants and goods from one country to another, in this case saplings from Denmark, where the disease has affected 90% of the ash trees.  Below is a photo of an ash tree up on the downs round Bath.  They grow on the steep hillsides, forming woods along the edge of the downs.
Monbiot talks of the legend of the Scandinavian legend of Odin and the Yggdrasil Tree, so I will not expand on that story, though it appears in this country to.  Geoffrey Grigson gives the many stories that accompanies the ash tree in this country.  It was rated as good a wood as oak  as the 'most toughest and elastic' of timber for making a variety of things.  It had 'healing power', pollarded ash trees were cleft and the young child passed through to heal them of their affliction, a bit like the holed prehistoric stone in Cornwall. 'ash tree, ash tree pray buy these warts from me..
The ashen spear 'Ash, baneful weapon in the hand of a warrior' carries its magic on into ash walking sticks, bringing with it its essence of strength and sacredness. 

Ash tree caught by early morning sun

I loved the old ash trees up on the downs, one cruelly struck by lightening, apparently lightening strikes the ash so remember 'avoid an Ash, it courts the flash', don't stand under one of them in a thunderstorm.  One experiment I carried out with the trees was to count the leaflets that form a twig, mostly it is supposed to to be nine, four on either side and a singleton at the tip but you will often find eleven or thirteen leaves. 

Of course nine is a magic number, Odin hung from the Yggdrasil Tree for nine days and Aubrey Burl has something to say about in his book on Stone Circles (which I no longer own), but it is a tree that comes late to leaf, I'm sure there is a little rhythm about it somewhere...

As always for reference; Geoffrey Grigson, The Englishman's Flora


  1. I'll be counting the leaves falling from our closest ash tree this evening when I go and see Trigger. Ash is the best wood for burning too. It would be such a tragedy to see them go.

  2. Hopefully it will be nine and then you will have a 'lucky' tree ;)