Fraxinus - Growing Guide

Growing Fraxinus


Ash dieback disease was first detected in the UK in 2012 but it had probably arrived here several years before this. Imports of Fraxinus excelsior or common ash and all other species of ash were prohibited from 2012 and these prohibitions remain today after Brexit.

Burncoose, like all other UK nurseries, has therefore given up growing or selling any common ash as well as all other species of ash which used to be listed in our catalogue.

The prevailing view today is that 80% of the UK population of ash trees will die over the next 10 to 20 years. Young or coppiced ash trees (like those which we used to sell) are particularly susceptible to the disease and will probably all die as they have already in many parts of the country.

However the disease is called ash ‘dieback’ for a reason in that not all trees which become infected will necessarily die quickly. It is possible that some trees will be able to survive and tolerate or grow through the disease. Equally it is now clear that, for genetic reasons which are still not fully understood, some ash trees appear to be fully resistant to the disease. This offers a small amount of hope that ash trees will remain a feature in our countryside landscapes.

We frequently get asked at the nursery if any other species of ash can still be successfully grown in the UK and if all other species of ash are susceptible to ash dieback disease? Clearly it is early days in the spread of the disease in the UK, but the current view is that those species of ash which are native to mainland Europe are just as susceptible to ash dieback as common ash.

This rules out Fraxinus angustifolia (narrow leaved ash) and Fraxinus ornus (manna ash). So far, however, manna ash has only been found with infected foliage, rather than infected trunks, so it may turn out that it is resilient. 

Fraxinus ornusclick for larger image
Fraxinus ornus

Asian species of ash, Fraxinus chinensis (Chinese ash) and Fraxinus mandshurica (Manchurian ash), appear to tolerate infection showing only mild symptoms on their foliage. The theory is that these species have been exposed to the fungus in the wild for thousands of years and are therefore resilient.

There are around 30 species of ash grown in arboretums in the UK. A good many of these are native to the USA and Mexico but, like the rarer species from China and Taiwan, they are grown in small numbers and in isolated locations.

It may be that we can one day soon offer American and Asiatic species of ash in our catalogue with the certain knowledge that they will not die from ‘chalara’ dieback or ash disease. However that time has not yet come.

In the meantime all cultivated ornamental forms of Fraxinus excelsior are as much at risk of the disease as common ash itself. Golden ash (F. excelsior ‘Jaspidea’) and weeping ash (F. excelsior ‘Pendula’) are, sadly, in this category.

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