This section is from the book "Wayside And Woodland Blossoms", by Edward Step. Also available from Amazon: Wayside And Woodland Blossoms: A Guide To British Wild-Flowers.
One of the most pleasing in growth of our forest trees is the Ash, its grey trunk rising to eighty or a hundred feet, and its sweeping branches, the lower ones bending upwards at the tips, clothed with the gracefully curving long pinnate leaves. The character of these compound leaves and their leaflets is well shown in our illustration, together with two clusters of the winged fruits.
The Ash is a native of Britain, although most of the specimens we meet in woods and plantations have been reared in a nursery and planted out. There are many cultivated varieties of F. excelsior; and a large number of species have been introduced during the present and last centuries, chiefly from S. Europe and N. America. Ash and Privet are the only native representatives of the order Oleaceae, to which the Olive belongs. It cannot be said that Fraxinus excelsior is a typical representative of the order, since most species included in it bear flowers composed of all the floral organs, whereas excelsior has neither calyx nor corolla. Its flowers appear in April or May, and are of three kinds: - staminate, consisting of two dark purple stamens only; pistillate, consisting of an oblong ovary with short style and cleft stigma; hermaphrodite, consisting of ovary and two anthers with very short filaments. These flowers are individually small and inconspicuous, but associated as they are in dense panicles from the new wood formed in the previous season, and appearing before the black leaf-buds have burst; they are collectively very conspicuous. The leaves are very late in making their appearance, as they are among the first to fall after the early frosts of autumn. The "keys," as the fruits are called, each contain two seeds, and the wing has a twist which causes the key to spin rapidly when the breeze separates it from the bunch and carries it far from the parent tree.
Fraxinus excelsior. - Oleaceae. The leaves do not unfold from the bud until the cold weather is well over, usually in May. It is said that its Latin name Mortis is derived from mora, delay, in consequence of this caution on the part of the tree. The leaves generally used in the silk-culture for feeding the "worms" are those of the White Mulberry (Morus alba).