Trinity tree of the month- the Common Ash

Posted on: 11 January 2023

This January we are featuring one of Ireland’s tallest native tree species, the Common Ash (Fraxinus excelsior, or Fuinseog in Irish). The tree is located in the South Arboretum of Trinity College Botanic Garden beside Trinity Hall in Dartry.

This tree is in good health, and it is estimated to be about 150 years old. It is 27 metres tall, 3.11 metres girth and a canopy spread of almost 21 metres.  The estimated carbon currently stored in this tree is 3982.43 kg. It was present when Trinity’s Botanic Gardens moved from its previous site at Ballsbridge to its current home in 1967.  Ash trees usually live for 200-250 years and in some cases up to 300 years. 

Interestingly, Ash trees are normally dioecious - meaning that male and female flowers occur on separate plants.  However, sexual expression in plants can sometimes be variable and Ash is a great example of this.  Some of these trees change sex yearly, some carry branches of the other sex, some become hermaphrodite.

Irish folklore and mythology is saturated with tributes to trees.  Ash was one of the “guardian trees of Ireland” which sheltered each of the old provinces.  It is one of seven sacred trees mentioned in Irish folklore, for which the Celt’s had a deep appreciation, and is also recognised in the Ogham alphabet.  Ash represents the 8th month in the Ogham Tree Calendar and its Ogham letter is Onn, which is the old Irish word for ash. 

It also carries great cultural significance in Ireland as the light, durable and elastic wood that makes hurleys.  One big concern for the species and for hurley production especially - some 400,000 hurley’s are required annually to fulfil domestic supply - is the Ash Die Back disease, which is now widespread in Europe and usually fatal. Professor of Botany Trevor Hodkinson and colleagues are doing great work in this area of research. 

We welcome you to visit the Botanic Garden to see this beautiful tree amongst many other fantastic species, and read more about their mission and work here.  Special thanks to the staff of the garden for providing history and information on the Ash: Dr Steve Waldren, Curator/Administrator and Dr Michelle Murray, Outreach Officer.  Also, a special thanks to the staff at Estates and Facilities who care for our grounds and trees. 


Media Contact:

Katie Byrne | Public Affairs and Communications | | +353 1 896 4168