The ash flowers in April and May (2). The male flowers do not release pollen until after the styles of the female flowers belonging to the same tree have ceased to be receptive; this helps to avoid self-fertilisation (3). Ashes grow at an extremely fast rate until 50 years of age; after this point they cease to increase in height. They first begin to produce flowers and seeds after they reach 30 years of age (3). Ash wood is valued for its fast growth, strength and elasticity; it has been put to a wide range of uses and is still used to make hockey sticks, billiard cues and oars, as well as walking sticks, for its ability to withstand shock. The ancient technique of coppicing extends the life of the tree; in Suffolk a coppiced ash is estimated to be at least 1,000 years old (5). Scandinavian mythology holds that the ash was the 'tree of life'; it was believed to have healing powers in Britain, and was widely regarded as a source of magic and mystery. Unfortunately, the mysterious aura of the ash has declined in modern times; it is now commonly viewed as a 'weed tree' due to its rapid colonisation of new areas and fast growth (5).
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