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21. F. E. PARVIFOLIA. Small-leaved European Ash ; Frarinus parvifolia, of Don, Loudon, and others; Frêne à petites feuilles, of the French; Kleinblättrige Esche, of the Germans. This variety is a native of the Levant, having from five to seven pairs of leaflets, which are sessile, roundish, ovate, and oblong. They are attenuated, and quite entire at the base, but mucronate and sharply serrated at the apex. The flowers are naked, and put forth in April and May. And the branches are purplish, and trigonal at the top.
22. F. E. ARGENTEA. Silvery-leaved European Ash; Fraxinus argentea, of Don, Loudon, and others; Frêne du Corse, of the French. The leaves of this variety are of a silver-gray, and usually have three pairs of rather coriaceous, ellipticovate, shortly-cuspidate, bluntly-toothed leaflets, on short petiolules.
It is a native of the island of Corsica, in the fissures of rocks.
23. F. E. OXYCARPA. Sharp-fruited European Ash; Fraxinus oxycarpa, of Don, Loudon, and others; Frêne à fruits pointu, of the French. The leaves of this variety are of a dark glossy green, and are produced in tufts at the ends of the branches. They have from two to three pairs of leaflets, almost sessile, which are lanceolate, acuminated, serrated, and glabrous. The flowers are naked. The samaræ lanceolate, attenuated at both ends, and mucronate. The branchlets are green, with white dots; and the buds are brown. This tree is a native of Caucasus.
24. F. E. PALLIDA. Pale-barked European Ash; Fraxinus pallida, of Don, Loudon, and others. The leaves of this variety have three pairs of leaflets, which are glabrous, almost sessile, ovate-lanceolate, and toothed. The branches are yellow
Geography and History. The Fraxinus excelsior is indigenous to most parts of Europe, northern Africa, and Japan. It nowhere arrives at greater perfection than in Britain, where it is found from the county of Ross to Cornwall
. It also abounds in the forests of France, Germany, Sweden, Norway, and of Russia.
The ash was known to the Greeks, whose name for it was melia, or boumelia ; and to the Romans, who, it is said, named it Fraxinus, quia facile frangitur, to express the fragile nature of the wood, as the boughs of it are easily broken; and both the Greeks and Romans made their spears of its wood. By the Roman agricultural writers it is recommended as peculiarly fit for making implements of husbandry, to which purpose it is chiefly applied in modern times. In Britain, it ranks amongst the most beautiful of their trees, although, in the ancient history of that country, it was very little regarded; indeed, some idea of the value set upon it may be formed, from the fact, that in the laws of the celebrated Howel Dda, while a branch of mistletoe was valued at thirty shillings, the ash was unmentioned, and therefore must be ranked with trees after the thorn, and rated at fourpence. Druidical superstition, however, has vanished, and now, while the mistletoe is but little valued except by the bird-catcher, for the manufacture of his lime, the ash is styled by way of eminence, the "husbandman's tree," on account of its celebrity for the formation of agricultural implements and for purposes of domestic economy.
Among numerous ashes of extraordinary size, recorded as growing in Britain, may be mentioned those spoken of by Evelyn, “lately sold in Essex, in length one hundred and thirty-two feet,” and the celebrated tree which formerly stood in the churchyard of Kilmalie, 'in Lochaber. The latter was considered the largest and the most remarkable tree in the Highlands. Lochiel, and his numerous kindred and clan held it in great veneration for generations, which is supposed to have been the cause of its destruction; it being burnt to the ground by the brutal soldiery, in 1746. In one direction, its diameter was seventeen feet and three inches, and the cross diameter twenty-one feet; its circumference at the ground was fifty-eight feet.
At Cobham Hall, in Kent, there is a tree of this species, one hundred and twenty feet in height, with a trunk six feet and eight inches in diameter, straight, and without a branch, for a great height.
In Ayrshire, at Kilkerran, there is an ash, which, at thirty years after planting, had attained the height of sixty feet, with a trunk nine feet in diameter, and an ambitus or spread of branches of seventy-five feet.
In Fermanagh, at Enniskillen, Ireland, there is an old tree, with a trunk twelve feet in diameter, three feet from the ground. And, in Limerick, at Adare, there is an ash of unknown age, under which the family treasure of the ancestors of the Earl of Dunraven lay concealed during the troubles of 1688.
In France, at the Jardin des Plantes, in Paris, there is a Fraxinus excelsior, which in sixty years after planting, had attained the height of fifty-six feet.
At Monza, in Italy, there is a tree, which, at the age of forty years, was sixty feet high.
At Sans Souci, near Berlin, in Prussia, there is an ash, which, in forty years after planting, had attained the height of fifty feet.
In Russia, in the government garden at Odessa, there is a tree of this species, which acquired the height of twenty-three feet, in eleven years after planting.
The Fraxinus excelsior was introduced into the North American colonies in about the year 1740, and the original tree, which has attained the height of fifty feet, with a trunk four feet in girth, is yet standing in the Bartram botanic garden, at Kingsessing. There are also specimens of the Fraxinus e. aurea, and pendula, in the nursery of Mr. D. Landreth, in Philadelphia, fifteen years planted, and twenty-five feet in height.
Poetical, Mythological, and Legendary Allusions. The ash is mentioned both by Hesiod and Homer; the latter of whom not only speaks of the ashen spear of Achilles, but informs us that it was by a spear of this wood that he was slain.
“The noble ash rewards the planter's toil;
Noble, since great Achilles from her side
In heathen mythology, Cupid is said to have made his arrows first of ash, though they were afterwards made of cypress. According to Virgil, the disciples of Mars used ashen poles for lances.
“A lance of tough ground Ash the Trojan threw,
The Scandinavians also introduce this tree into their mythology. It is stated in the “Edda," or sacred book of the Northmen, that the court of the gods is held under a mighty ash, the summit of which reaches to the heavens, the branches overshadow the whole surface of the earth, and the roots penetrate to the infernal regions. An eagle rests on its summit to observe everything that passes; to which a squirrel constantly ascends and descends, to report those things that the exalted bird may have neglected to notice. Serpents are twined round the trunk; and from the roots there spring two limpid fountains, in one of which lies concealed wisdom, and in the other a knowledge of the things to come. Three virgins constantly attend on this tree, to sprinkle its leaves with water from the magic fountains; and this water, falling on the earth in the form of dew, produces honey. Man, according to the “Edda," was formed from the wood of this tree; and Hesiod, in like manner, deduces his brazen race from
"The warlike Ash, that reeks with human blood."
Ancient writers of all nations state that the serpent entertains an extraordinary respect for the ash. Pliny says that, if a serpent be placed near a fire, and both surrounded by ashen twigs, the serpent will sooner run into the fire than pass over
the pieces of ash; and Dioscorides asserts that the juice of ash leaves, mixed with wine, is a cure for the bite of serpents. Evelyn mentions that, in some parts of England the country people believe that, " if they split young ash-trees, and make ruptured children pass through the chasm, it will cure them;" and the Rev. W. T. Bree relates an instance, within his personal knowledge, of this extraordinary superstition having been practised within a few years in Warwickshire. Another superstition is that of boring a hole in an ash-tree, and imprisoning a shrew mouse in it. A few strokes with a branch of a tree thus prepared, is supposed to cure lameness and cramps in cattle, all of which the poor mouse is accused of having occasioned. There is also a proverb in the midland counties of England, that, if there are no keys on the ash-trees, there will be no king within the twelvemonth;" in allusion to the ash never being totally destitute of keys. Lightfoot says that, in many parts of the Highlands of Scotland, “at the birth of a child, the nurse or midwife puts one end of a green stick of this tree into the fire, and, while it is burning, gathering in a spoon the sap, or juice, which oozes out at the other end, administers this as the first spoonful of food to the newlyborn baby.” Gilpin, in his “Forest Scenery," calls the oak the Hercules of the forest, and the ash the Venus. The Romans called the seed of the ash lingua avis, from its supposed resemblance to a bird's tongue. In marshy situations, the ash strikes its roots deep into the ground. Hence arises the proverb in some parts of England,—"May your foot-fall be by the root of an ash"-may you get a firm footing.
Soil and Situation. The Fraxinus excelsior always grows best in a good soil, somewhat calcareous, and which, though not boggy, is generally adjoining water. Its most favourite situations are on the steep, rocky banks of rivers, or on the sides of glens, where the soil is generally of a great depth, and a stream not very far distant. The ash, however, agrees with a greater variety of soil and situation, perhaps, than any other tree producing timber of equal value; and, differing from many other trees, its value is increased, rather than diminished, by the rapidity of its growth. Wherever its growth is stunted, the wood is brittle, and soon affected by the rot; but where it has been vigorous, the compact part of the several layers bears a greater proportion to the cellular or spongy parts, and the timber is very tough, elastic, and durable. Mr. Sang, who is considered the very best modern authority in all matters respecting the hardier forest trees, observes, that the ash“ is found in the highest perfection on dry, loamy soils. On such it spontaneously grows. In moist, but not wet soils, it grows fast, but soon sickens. It will grow freely on most kinds of soils, if the situation be tolerably good, except on retentive clays or tills. In wet soils, it soon sits up, (ceases to increase either in girth or height,) languishes, and dies. In rich lands, its wood is short and brittle; in sandy soils it is tough and reedy; qualities which, for several purposes, very much enhance it value. In loam, mixed with decomposed rock, at the bottom of a mountain, the ash arrives at a greater size.” * Dr. Walker, a close observer of nature, and an ardent lover of trees, says, in his "Highlands of Scotland,” that, " The ash should be planted on dry banks, in glens and gullies, in places incumbered with large, loose stones, and in all rocky places, wherever There is shelter ;" but, “ the largest trees,” continues he, “ will always be found where they have running water within reach of their roots.” And he adds, ** There is no situation too high, or too cold, for the ash, provided it has shelter; but without shelter it never makes a considerable tree at a great height, even though standing in a good soil.” The most proper situation for the ash, according to Nicol, is the forest or the grove. Marshall recommends it to be planted alternately with the oak; because, as the ash draws its nourishment from the surface, and the oak from the sub-soil, the ground would thus be fully and profitably employed.
Propagation and Culture. The species is always propagated by seeds, and the varieties by grafting or budding on the species. The seeds should be gathered as soon as they are ripe, and taken to the rotting-ground, where they should be mixed with light, sandy earth, and laid in a flat heap, not more than ten inches thick, in order to prevent them from heating. Here they should be turned over several times in the course of the winter; and, as early as the ground will permit, in the spring, they may be removed, freed from the sand by sifting, and sown in beds in a middling soil. The richness or quality of the soil, Sang observes, is of little consequence; but it should be well broken by the rake, and the situation should be open, to prevent the plants from being drawn up too slender. The seeds may be deposited at the distance of half an inch every way, and covered about a quarter of an inch deep with soil. The plants may be taken up at the end of the first season, and planted in nursery lines; and at the end of the second year, they may be removed to where they are finally to remain. If planted in a good soil, they will grow rapidly when young, attaining a height of fifteen feet and upwards, in ten years. When cultivated as a coppice-wood, the ash will continue throwing up shoots from stools or pollards for more than a century. The most profitable age for felling its timber, appears to be from eighty to one hundred years. The drip of the ash is injurious to the vegetation of almost every other plant; and, when planted in cultivated fields, from its numerous fibrous roots, which run close to the surface, a certain portion of the land around it is rendered unproductive. The use of the ash in plantations, therefore, has been objected to on this account; although, it is admitted that this, and its love of shelter, constitute a decided reason why it should not be planted in hedge-rows, or where it is expected to derive profit from plants growing under its shade, yet it affords no argument against planting it in masses, where the object is the production of timber or coppice-wood. As the tree, when standing singly, forms a most ornamental object on a lawn, and, though it may iinpede the growth of grass, yet does not destroy it, there is no reason why the ash should not be admitted into pleasure-grounds, as well as the cedar, or any other dense evergreen, under which grass will not thrive. It has been observed, that female and hermaphrodite trees, from the quantity of seeds which they produce, never exhibit such a handsome clothing of foliage as the male trees; and hence, in some situations, where ornament is required, it may be desirable to make sure of a male by grafting
Accidents, Diseases, and Insects. When standing alone, the far-extended branches of the ash, are liable to be broken off by high winds; but, except on unsuitable soils, it is not subject to the canker, or many other diseases. From too quick an ascent of the sap; or, as some imagine, from the puncture of an unknown insect in the tender twigs, which diverts the sap from its usual course, the branches of the ash sometimes become twisted and curled into a beautiful faciated form, resembling a ram's horn, or a crosier. These wreathed excrescences or facia are sometimes also found in other trees, as the willow, and particularly in the holly. As the ash comes late into leaf, it is by no means so liable to the attacks of insects as the various species of orchard fruits, which put forth early; at least, this is the case in Britain; but, in France, its leaves are liable to be destroyed by the Cantharis vesicatoria, denoted by the adjoining figure; and also by bees, ants, and birds, in the iniddle of summer. “If nature had produced the ash for no other purpose than for the embellishment of forests,” says a writer in the “ Nouveau Du Hamel," " we might almost say that she had failed in her end, or had opposed herself to her own views, in destining the leaves of that tree to be the food of an insect, Cantharis vesi
catoria, a beetle of a beautiful golden-green, with black antennæ, which devours them with avidity. The ash is no sooner covered with leaves, than they are attacked by such a number of cantharides, or Spanish flies, that the trees, during the remainder of the summer, have a dismal appearance; and, though the insect which devours the leaves may please the eye by its elegant form, and its colours of green and gold, yet it spreads abroad a smell which is so disagreeable, that it causes the common ash to be excluded from our forests, where the flowering ash, and some of the American species, are alone introduced.” M. Pirolle, in the “Bon Jardinier,” states that, “even when the cantharides are dead on the trees, they become dried to a powder, which it is difficult to pass without inhaling. The particles of this powder, being parts of those flies that cause the blistering of the skin when a blister-plaster is applied, are, of course, dangerous to persons who inhale them; and, on this account, ash-trees are seldom planted near villages in France.” Mr. Mumby, in a paper in the London “Magazine of Natural History,” states that he saw "an ash-tree overhanging the road near Dijon, so crowded with the Cantharis vesicatoria, that the excrement of the insects literally blackened the ground.” On passing underneath the tree, he felt his face as if bitten by gnats, and smelt a most disagreeable sickening odour, " which extends," says he, "twenty or thirty yards from the tree, according to the direction of the wind." These insects make their appearance, in the south of Europe about mid-summer, more particularly on the ash, privet, and lilac, on the leaves of which they feed. Fortunately, they are not very numerous in England; but in Russia, according to Pallas, the cantharides abound on the Lonicera tatarica, and are collected from that plant in great quantities for the apothecaries. In a living state, the young branches of the ash are frequently attacked by a small scaly insect, (Chermes,) which, feeding on the sap, often throws the tree into a decline. The decayed wood of the ash, as well as that of many other trees, is devoured by the larvæ of the Dorcus parallelopipedus, and the Sinodendron cylindricum. It has been observed, that, when wood-peckers are seen tapping the ash and other timber-trees, they ought to be cut down, as these birds never attempt to make holes in a tree, till it is in a state of decay.
Properties and Uses. The timber of the ash is exceedingly elastic; so much so, according to Tredgold, that a joist of it will sustain more weight before it will break, than one of any other European tree. When green, it weighs about sixty-four and a half pounds to a cubic foot, and about forty-nine and a half pounds when dry. The value of the timber is increased by the rapidity of its growth; and, as in the case of the Castanea vesca, (sweet chesnut,) the wood of the young trees is more esteemed than that of old ones. The texture of the wood is alternately compact and porous; and, where the growth has been vigorous, the compact part of the annual layers bears a greater proportion to the porous, and the timber is comparatively more tough, elastic, and durable. In durability, however, and also in rigidity, it is inferior to that of the oak; but it is superior to that wood, in toughness and elasticity; and hence its universal employment in all those parts of machinery which have to sustain sudden shocks; such as the circumference teeth, and spokes of wheels, beams, ploughs, &c.* Since the use of iron has become so general in the manufacture of implements and machines, the value of the ash is somewhat diminished; still, however, it ranks next in value to the oak, and is held even to surpass it for some purposes. It is much in use by the coach-maker, the wheelwright, and the manufacturer of agricultural imple-ments; and is also much used for making oars, blocks for pulleys, &c. It is highly valued for kitchen tables, as it may be better scoured than any other wood, and is not so liable to run splinters into the fingers of the scourer. For the same reason, it was formerly much used in England for staircases; and, in
* See Tredgold's Carpentry.