Your go-to gardening spade, the shelf holding your books and the table to collect around for supper; ash has been a part of British homes for centuries. We rely on the malleable and durable qualities of ash more than we perhaps realise. Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) is the third most common tree species in the UK and plays a vital role in shaping our landscapes as well as contributing to a biodiverse woodland. Unfortunately, this native tree is under threat from being wiped out.


What is ash dieback?

Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, more commonly known as ash dieback is devastating woodlands and hedgerows. First inhibited in leaves and twigs, the fungal pathogen effects the tree’s ability to carry water and nutrients to the upper branches as well as causing necrosis in the sapwood. This leads to significant leaf loss, bark taking on a distinctive mauve tinge and eventually dieback of the tree itself. Due to the cyclical nature of the disease, trees are at risk of being re-infected as spores from the diseased leaf litter can blight surrounding leaves causing young ash trees to die quickly.


How will ash dieback effect the UK?

The overall effect is devastating not only to the trees, but the ecosystem it supports the synergy of. Ash supports well over 990 different species of birds, insects, mammals, and other plants; all of which will be threatened in years to come. With the predicted loss of up to 95% of our ash trees, habitats, biodiversity, and air purification will be greatly impacted. The disease will also have a major economic impact, predicted at a cost of billions.


Is their hope for the European ash tree?

Various findings evidence that some trees remain tolerant to the disease. This finding suggests that population recovery is on the cards, however, it is thought that this could take well over 50 years. There are specialists that keep a close eye on the health of the trees in our woodlands and surrounding areas to fight back against the spread. New woodlands are now being planted with a mix of native trees which helps to create a genetic diversity which in turn improves the resilience. Although the most impacted areas are in the south-east of England, Norfolk – being not too far away – is still at risk and has certified cases of ash dieback. As ever, nature is at the heart of what we do at Steamed Studio. That is why we are always reading and listening, so we understand the disease and the impact it has on trees, and thus, timber. Ash is the most common hardwood in our studio and is much loved for its distinctive patterns and grain. Working with ash is a joy, but with a likely shortage in the future, we are always trialling other hardwoods to steam bend so that we are ready to adapt.

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