Hazel, willow, beef and storytelling from Bedfordshire

Ash bark, a mystery

Mysterious patterns on ash bark

Mysterious patterns on ash bark

Spending a great deal of time in woodland as I do, means I have regular opportunities to observe minutiae. It feels important to be able to take pleasure in apparently small and maybe inconsequential things.

I took this picture a while ago. It’s the trunk of a thirty year old ash tree (Fraxinus excelsior). Some ash trees show this rather beautiful pattern on the bark. Other don’t. It’s rather like a disruptive camouflage. The contrasting, drab colours – greys, khaki, maybe oatmeal (or is that something that occurs naturally only in paint catalogues?) are subtle and understated.

I’ve made a brief attempt to find out what these patches are and if they serve any function for the tree; but without success. Are they lichens? Are they produced by the tree itself? If so, do they serve any function? Why do some trees show the pattern while other don’t? I can’t think of a natural pattern or display of colour that is there just to be pleasing to a human eye, so what’s going on?

Any ideas?

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