Thursday, 8 November 2012

Ash dieback

A big issue here at the moment is ash dieback.

Apologies for the choppy sound in the middle, but i still wanted to post this.
How to recognise ash dieback:

More information here:

Advice on helping prevent spread:

There's also this:

What this video hasn't got in it, thank goodness, is any visual signs of ash dieback, because as far as i could tell, there wasn't any in the trees i noticed.  Presumably it's only a matter of time, sadly.

I don't actually use ash at all herbally, as i prefer to avoid using trees, particularly the bark, because it seems disrespectful and unsustainable.  However, it has been used in the past and i might consider eating the keys if i get the chance.

I'm a herbalist, not an ecologist, so i can't promise the information on ash dieback itself is accurate although the Forestry Commission are presumably better.  Asian Fraxinus excelsior trees are completely resistant to ash dieback, so it seems to have been there in the past.  In Denmark, about 10% of the trees were resistant and this may be the case here too.  Again, i'm not an ecologist, but i imagine this might give us some hope unless the trees get replaced by something else.

I also want to celebrate the ash tree.  I particularly like the Latin name Fraxinus excelsior, although i realise that the rather striking species name of our native ash - EXCELSIOR! - is just a Latin comparative.  Like the names of other trees in Latin, Fraxinus is feminine with a masculine form and declension, although this shifted, unsurprisingly, after the fall of the Roman Empire and in modern Romance languages the names of trees are often feminine.

Regarding the ecology of the tree itself, it has pinnate leaves which allow a lot of daylight through, so were it to be replaced by something like a sycamore, that would starve the ground underneath of light and reduce the number and diversity of herbs growing there, so it is still important to herbalists even though we rarely use it.  It's also very thirsty and dislikes shadow.  The former is quite important as it grows in floodplains (along with limestone rich higher ground), so i'm guessing it helps prevent flooding although i may be wrong.

Ash keys are edible, traditionally pickled, and appear to be spicy although i couldn't swear to that as i've never tried them.  Other parts of the tree are purgative, diaphoretic, bitter, diuretic and astringent, suggesting some use but there are probably much better herbal remedies to use than that.

One way in which it really does score with human use is through its timber, which it produces very efficiently for a hundred to a hundred and forty years.  This wood is particularly strong and springy, and is useful for furniture, wooden tools and panels in buildings.  It's particularly good for joists and spears.

I hope this video will become dated in the right way when it's revealed that the situation was exaggerated and a false alarm, but i fear it won't.

Just on the sound issue, if anyone can tell me how i can get that sorted i would be most grateful.

The signs of ash dieback include dead leaves (as opposed to yellowing autumn leaves or ash keys, which i was surprised to discover are often mistaken for dead leaves), stems changing colour to purple and brown towards the ends and distinctive diamond-shaped lesions on the trunk.  These are bare-looking patches which are narrower than they are tall and are quite wide.

Finally, this was filmed near Aylestone Meadows, an absolutely wonderful green wedge in the southwest of Leicester which the City Council keep trying to destroy for some reason.