Weeping ash is very popular cultivar of Common ash and was widely planted in the Victorian Era. It shares many characteristics of the Common ash such as the flowers and leaves, but is typically a much smaller tree. As the name suggests it has a weeping habit and is very well suited as a park tree. There are not many Weeping ash trees in the parks and green spaces across Exeter - so if you do see one you are quite lucky! The largest specimen I have come across in a public park is within the St Thomas pleasure grounds.
Given the space and the right conditions it can reach a height of 15m and a spread of 8m after 20-50 years. Weeping ash is fairly tolerant of different soil types including clay but it does require full sun light. Over time the weeping branches will spread to ground level making it look like a big umbrella. In most cases the branches and twigs are cut back to above head height so you don't often see them in their full natural weeping habit.
The bark is very similar to Common ash but is a little more grey in colour and the ridges are less linear. The buds are a charcoal black colour and are slightly fuzzy to the touch. The leaves are opposite and pinnately compound in design. There are typically 7 to 13 pairs of light green, oval leaflets with coarsely serrated margins. A very unique and rather unusual feature of Ash trees is they sometimes drop leaves even when they are green. During the autumn the leaves tend to fade to a mixture of yellow adding to the Autumn scene.
The leaves and samaras sway freely on the weeping branches
The young samaras are green and grouped together which is why they are typically called 'Ash keys'
Like all members of the Ash family the trees are usually dioecious in nature which means the the male and female flowers grow on separate trees. This isn't always the case and sometimes an all male tree one year can be all female the next year and vice versa. The flowers are usually in full bloom around the middle of April. They are in small clusters of green shoots with deep purple tips. Although many insect species will visit Weeping ash trees they are wind pollinated.
During May the flowers begin to turn into small green samaras and over time (months) they will mature into large brown samaras. The samara is a fancy name for a winged fruit and quite often they are referred to as 'Keys' or 'Helicopters'. Once the samaras fall to the ground they are eaten by all sorts of small mammals and birds which helps to spread the seeds far away from the parent tree. Weeping ash is also at risk of being infected by Ash dieback.
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