This section is from the book "Handbook Of Hardy Trees, Shrubs, And Herbaceous Plants", by W. Botting Hemsley. Also available from Amazon: Handbook of hardy trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants.
Trees with unequally pinnate deciduous leaves and polygamous or dioecious flowers in dense axillary clusters. Calyx 4-lobed or none. Corolla 4-lobed or none. Stamens 2. Fruit a flattened 1- or 2-celled samara or key, winged at the tip); cells 1-seeded. About thirty species are known, inhabiting Europe, North Asia, and North America, where they are most numerous. Fraxinus is the Latin name of the common Ash.
1. F. Ornus, syn. Ornus Europcea (fig. 164). Flowering Ash. - This is so called on account of the conspicuous clustered panicles of pure white petaliferous flowers pendulous at the extremities of the branches. A handsome small tree with somewhat hairy leaves, composed of 7 to 9 pairs of lanceolate shortly petiolulate leaflets. South of Europe.
Fig. 164. Fraxinus Ornus. (Nat. size.)
2. F. rotundifolia. Manna Ash. - Very near the foregoing, but having less conspicuous flowers and more rounded sessile leaflets. South of Europe.
3. F. excelsior. Common Ash. - This handsome native tree differs from the above in having apetalous flowers with purplish black stamens. The smooth ash-grey bark, pinnate leaves and black buds distinguish it from all our other native trees. The Weeping Ash is a variety of this, and was first discovered in Cambridgeshire about a century since. There is also a gold-barked variety both erect and pendulous, and there are gold and silver striped and blotched varieties. The form called monophylla, or heterophylla, is singular in having most of the leaves reduced to a single leaflet, which is nearly entire or finely cut, as in the variety called laciniata. The variety crispa is more curious than beautiful, having very dark green curled foliage.
F. lentiscifolia. - A smaller tree with long slender branches and distant leaves composed of few long narrow remote leaflets. A native of the Levant, of which there is a weeping form. F. longicuspis is a recently introduced Japanese tree with two, or three pairs of lanceolate very acuminate leaflets.
The North American species are numerous, but offer no novelty or variety, and are only grown in collections or on a small scale for their timber, for which purpose, however, they have not proved superior to the common one.
There are many fine old trees of the common form scattered over England, some nearly a hundred feet high, notably one at Woburn and another at Cury.