Flowering ash

The Flowering ash

The ham, Fraxinus ornus, also called "ash of the manna" is a medium-sized deciduous tree. It is quite widespread in our country both as an ornamental subject and in growing income. It is also found quite easily in the spontaneous state, throughout Italy, especially in mixed forests up to an altitude of 1200 m. above sea level. The ostrich is a deciduous tree that can reach, in nature, 20 meters high. The crown has an expanded shape. The leaves are pinnate, up to 20 cm long and more, composed from 5-9 leaflets, from oblong to ovate, each up to 12 cm long and up to 5 wide, the lateral petioles. The color is opaque green on the upper side, while they are paler on the lower side. In autumn they turn towards a very bright yellow. Leaf buds, present in winter, appear dark gray.
The bark is gray and very smooth.

Flowers and fruits

The ostrich is a deciduous tree that can reach, in nature, 20 meters high. The crown has an expanded shape. The leaves are pinnate, up to 20 cm long and more, composed from 5-9 leaflets, from oblong to ovate, each up to 12 cm long and up to 5 wide, the lateral petioles. The color is opaque green on the upper side, while they are paler on the lower side. In autumn they turn towards a very bright yellow. Leaf buds, present in winter, appear dark gray. The bark is gray and very smooth. The flowers are very showy. Precisely to emphasize this particularity, the ostrich is also nicknamed "flowering ash" to distinguish it from other ash trees, with mostly insignificant inflorescences. The single flowers are small and white, with 4 slender petals up to 6 mm long, very fragrant. They are collected in large conical bunches, covered with down, up to 20 cm long. They appear for about 20 days from late spring to early summer. The fruits are called "samare": long up to 20 cm, initially green and then pale brown when ripe. They end in a flat wing and are pendulous with respect to the branches. They remain on the tree all winter and then be carried by the wind.
This tree is used for ornamental purposes in gardens, both as an isolated specimen, as road tree or along avenues.
Very interesting is also the extraction of manna, that is the sap (very sugary). The leaves are also used in herbal teas and decoctions for their diuretic and antipyretic properties. The fruits are eaten in the same way as the capers.

First name Fraxinus ornus, orniello, flowering ash, manna ash
Height / width / shape of the foliage Up to 20 m / up to 25 m / expanded
Foliage frail
Maintenance easy
Water needs average
Growth slow
Propagation seed
RusticitŠ° Rustic enough (up to -20 ° C)
Exposure Full sun-half shade
use Isolated specimen, grove, natural hedge
Ground Any, but not too draining
spread From the floor up to 1200 meters s.l.m. (1400 in Sicily)

Planting and exposure

The ornielli are found for sale in nurseries that deal with tree species. They are generally provided with earthen bread or placed in a vase.
We choose a sunny position, so that growth, especially in the early years, is as fast as possible.
In any case, it must be pointed out that, especially the young specimens, they are very sensitive to the winds. A fairly sheltered area can only help.


The ham is adapted to many different types of soil. It is necessary to avoid only those that are too poor and excessively draining. The roots in fact always require a slightly humid environment.
To obtain a rapid growth it is however advisable to insert it where the substrate is rather rich in organic matter.

Sowing Autumn or spring (after vernalization)
Flowering End of spring
Leaves collection spring
Bark collection Autumn
Manna collection summer
pruning Autumn or spring
Planting Autumn or spring (in areas of harsh winter)

When and how to plant?

The best time to plant a home orniello It is autumn, generally the month of November. In any case, it is also possible to proceed at the end of winter, especially if we live in a mountain area above 1000 meters above sea level.
A hole with a volume at least twice that of ground bread will be created. The ideal is that it is at least 1.20 m wide and about 100 cm deep.
At the bottom of the hole a good amount of mature manure will be inserted and then a layer of earth. We place the clod and, about 30 cm away, we stick up to 3 solid and at least as high as the trunk. We cover with extracted soil and compact well. We secure the plant to the supports by tying it to at least three points.
Let us water abundantly. We continue with regularity, without ever allowing the area to dry completely, but only if we have operated at the beginning of spring (generally in winter the environmental humidity is sufficient).


The ham is always slightly moist. If it is in a suitable substrate it will rarely need water supplies, unless very prolonged droughts accompanied by intense heat occur.
Instead we will have to commit ourselves in this sense if the soil is very poor, sandy and draining, especially in the Center-South of our peninsula. In this case, help can also come from a good and thick straw and leaf mulch. This will help to avoid excessive evaporation, keeping the underground body more moist.


This tree tends to take on a beautiful natural shape on its own. If the space we have reserved is sufficient, frequent interventions will not be necessary.
Nevertheless, at least the first few years, it may be useful to address the branches with good training pruning.
The best time to intervene is winter, after the leaves have fallen. However, it can also be used in the spring, when the frosts have surely ended, and the leaf buds begin to swell.
Training pruning
They are practiced at the beginning of spring, in the first years after planting. They must be regular, light and progressive.
Usually we try to create a balanced and symmetrical specimen. The goal is often also to leave the lower part of the trunk (at least 1/3) free from branches.
Pruning for maintenance
Adult specimens should be treated very gently. Strict cuts must be avoided, in particular branches with a diameter greater than 10 cm. In any case it is good to avoid getting too close to the trunk, in order not to damage it, and to favor the healing always using a special putty.
Clearly it is very important to intervene by eliminating dead, damaged or diseased branches, so that the plant can recover.


New specimens of manna ash can be obtained by sowing. It is a rather slow method, but it can give great satisfaction.
It begins in autumn: the seeds will be stratified because the integument will become softer and allow the first radicle to come out.
The seeds can be inserted into the sand and always kept moist and cold. To obtain this effect, place the container in the refrigerator or, if you live in areas characterized by cold winters, directly outside.
In the spring we will transfer them to a vase at least 30 cm in diameter, which is sufficient for at most two seeds.
The distance between one and the other, however, is at least 25 cm.
The following year the birth can be put to permanent settlement.
We keep in mind however that the germination can also be very slow and need two or three winters.

Collection of seeds, leaves and bark

The seeds can be harvested directly from the tree in autumn, before ripening, or in winter, once they have dried.
The leaves (which can be used for medicinal purposes) give their best at the end of spring, when they are covered with a thin layer of resin. Instead, the bark should be taken in autumn, as it naturally tends to flake off. Both are kept in tightly closed jars or paper bags, after being dried to perfection.

Pests and diseases

The ash is a fairly robust tree. It is usually affected by both animal parasites and cryptogamic diseases, but it is rare that it suffers serious damage.
The heaviest condition that can affect it is undoubtedly the recently introduced Chalara fraxinea. It leads to the rapid desiccation of entire branches. Unfortunately, at present there are no tools for the care and containment except to break down the compromised specimens. If we live in an area where the problem is widespread, we insert a different essence into our plot.

Uses of the manure

As an ornamental tree it is very interesting for the beautiful flowering, which lasts about twenty days, towards the end of spring. The cascade of white flowers that literally covers it makes it a specimen of great appeal and very recognizable.
The manna
In Italy (especially in Sicily and Sardinia) the cultivation of income from the hay is also widespread.
It is in fact from this tree that the "manna" is obtained, a sugary product that is used in the confectionery and pharmaceutical industry: it is indeed a good natural remedy against constipation in children, given its D-mannitol content.
It is obtained by cutting the branches and young stems in mid-summer. From these the substance will then flow into the air and solidify, creating "stalactites".
The wood of the ostrich is light beige, with slightly darker veins. It is not used as work timber because it quickly deteriorates in contact with water. It is however often used for the production of small tools, in particular by means of the lathe.
It is instead very valuable as firewood, given its high calorific value. It is used for the production of pellets or directly as a fuel.
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