ASH TREE SURVEY 2021 (ongoing)
Could you help us to record the locations of Ash trees throughout Orkney?
In the north of Scotland, Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) is native mainly on limestone. For thousands of years it has been valued in the UK for its timber and may have been managed by coppicing in the past. ( I was once told that the past progression of Ash woodland throughout the UK has been shown to follow the movement of Neolithic man, suggesting that the timber was so valued for eg axe handles that they may have carried plants and/or seeds with them as they moved).
In Orkney, although not native to our islands, Ash is an attractive and hardy tree which enjoys our rich, moist soils and has the advantage of leafing up late, thereby often missing the late spring gales which can be so damaging to soft, young leaves. It has been planted in various places throughout the County, with good specimens in some of our older woodlands eg Binscarth and Gyre, and in a number of the more recent young woodlands which were planted under the Orkney Woodland Project. But we are sure that there are more, maybe single trees, in other places, including the isles and we would welcome your help in trying to record them all.
Ash is a very easy tree to identify, even in winter, with its jet black, opposite buds and pale, smooth, grey bark which can look quite ghostly in winter (but with darker and less smooth bark in older specimens), In spring, you can also look out for its male and female flowers which are delightful in detail.
So please record any Ash trees you see, whether mature or young and send the information, using the recording form if you wish, to Jenny Taylor (email : [email protected], or by post to 25 Grieveship Brae, Stromness, Orkney, KW16 3BG.)
Ash dieback disease (Chalara fraxinea, now known as Hymenoscyphus fraxineus)
Unfortunately this disease has been confirmed in Orkney and found in a number of quite widely scattered locations. It is a disease affecting and killing Ash trees which appeared in England in 2012 and has subsequently been spreading northwards with the previous most northerly case recorded in 2019 near Halkirk. There are useful guides to the symptoms online ( eg. https://www.forestresearch.gov.uk/tools-and-resources/pest-and-disease-resources/ash-dieback-hymenoscyphus-fraxineus) and on Youtube where there are seasonal guides, including one on what to look for in winter (“Chalara ash dieback - winter symptoms” by Steve Scott of the Forestry Commission)
Please remember if you are holidaying south and walking in woods containing Ash, to clean your footwear before travelling to other areas, as you could transfer the spores with your boots. As with Covid 19, hygiene is important with tree diseases too (and there are an increasingly alarming number of those), so please be cautious about importing trees or seeds from uncertain origins into te County.
The importation or internal movement of Ash seeds, plants and trees is currently prohibited to help prevent the spread of new ‘strains’ of the disease.
Please keep a look out for any signs of this disease and note this on your recording sheet, and take photos if possible.