Ash Tree Notes

Ash Tree Notes


Sprouting Ash Seeds - The Green Ash

During these warm summer weekends, many people will be relaxing and enjoying the warm weather, doing all sorts of outdoor activities, including playing baseball. Watching a great ballgame the other day, there was one guy that broke the bat. There is nothing like the sound a wooden bat makes as it smacks the ball. Although Hickory is the standard, Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylanica) is also a very popular wood for baseball bats and many other wood products. It has strength and hardness, making durable resilient products, aside from being a very attractive shade tree. Growing the trees can be easily done by collecting and planting the seeds.

The Green Ash is a member of the Olive Family (Oleaceae), and the Green Ash is widely spread across the eastern half of the country, and into southern Canada, from Zones 2 to 9. The leaves are deciduous, opposite and odd-pinnately compound, up to 9 inches long. Found typically in the moist bottomlands, the Green Ash has the widest distribution of the Olives, but is not the most common. The key to identifying the Ash, are the fruits, a dry indehiscent pointed samara.

Its flowers are small and inconspicuous which come out just before the leaves in early spring, anywhere from March to May. The fruits, unlike the fleshy olives in the family, are clusters of dry elongated winged single-seeded samaras, that ripen in late summer to early fall. These are ripe when the color fades from green to tan. Another way to tell if these seeds are ripe, is to cut it open where you should find a firm white, crisp, and full center.

Collecting the clusters of samaras is easy. This can be done by hand or using a hook on the end of a pole. Shaking the branches will often drop the clusters, and collecting fallen samaras can be picked up or swept up easy enough. Like most seeds, these should be spread out to dry, and then the clusters are easy to break up. There are about 19,000 seeds per pound, and once dried, they can be stored for several years in a sealed container with little loss of viability.

Typically, the Green Ash has both an internal dormancy factor, and the seedcoat also prevents or delays good germination. Freshly collected and planted seeds are less dormant than stored seeds. And the seeds can sit in the ground for years before germinating. Once they do sprout, germination is epigeal, the cotyledons (embryo's seed leaves) are forced up on the hypocotyl (stem). But to promote germination for seeds that are sown in the spring, the seeds need both warm and cold treatments. Fresh fall sown seed will get a natural cold treatment, so they would be ready to plant.

Take very warm (but not boiling) water and soak the seeds. Place them in the water, and let them stand overnight. the next day, drain off the water, store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for 30 to 40 days.

Green Ash seeds can then be planted in a wide variety of soil mixes, including regular garden soil. Plant them about one-half inch deep, and keep moist but not wet. A germination of up to 75% should happen within roughly 20 days, and as germination begins, provide partial shade. Keep the shading material on until the germination is complete, and for a couple weeks thereafter to allow the delicate seedlings to strengthen. Afterwards, full sun is suggested. Ash transplants well, so within a couple months, the seedlings would ready to plant in container or beds for further growth.

Let them grow for a year in the containers or beds, and they'll be large enough and strong enough for planting in the ground. Young Ash grow fairly quickly, and it won't take too long before the trees will be large enough to provide shade. Green Ash is a fast and easy seed to germinate and grow.

Happy Planting...


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