Be sure it's an ash tree

Photo credit: Iben Margrete Thomson

The common Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) is the fourth most common tree in Britain, and is easy to identify. It has leaves with between six and twelve pairs of oval leaflets. Each leaflet has irregular teeth. Like all deciduous trees, leaves are shed in winter, but the Ash is still unmistakeable by its black buds at the end of each shoot, as shown in the picture. Ash can grow to around 30m tall, but many are smaller and it can also be coppiced.

Identifying ash dieback

Photo credit: Forestry Commission

Does the tree have dark scars on the trunk?

The fungus causes lesions on the trunk/bark/branches at certain point of the life cycle. They may be dark if new, or lighter in colour if older. Most often they are centred around a small shoot which itself has died, as in the picture. Lesions are otherwise unusual in Ash trees and so this is a very telltale sign.

Does the tree have scars on its smaller branches?

Photo credit: Forestry Commission

You may see similar scars on small branches like this one

Is the top of the tree dead or dying?

Photo credit: Iben Margrete Thomson

Another characteristic sign of the die back fungus - the top part of this tree has died, although the lower part looks OK. This happens because the fungus enters through the leaves in the crown of the tree.

Is there dieback on shed leaves?

If the leaves have fallen, you can see distinctive discolouration, especially on the underside. Note the brown discolouration of the leaf stalk, which may also be on the central vein of the leaflet.

Video guide

Video credit: Forestry Commission

Survey Safety Guidelines

Undertaking surveys should be enjoyable and safe for volunteers. However, volunteers should be aware of potential issues that may arise in the field. With this in mind, please take the time to acquaint yourself with the following guidelines.

You are responsible for your own safety and for those in your care. Although minimal, there are always risks associated with being outdoors. You can minimise these risks. The following guidelines will help you to stay safe:

  • Take a map of the area with you. In addition, a GPS unit may be helpful.
  • Wear, and take with you, clothing and foot wear appropriate to the terrain and weather.
  • Be aware of the weather. Check the forecast before you leave. Trees and woodlands can be dangerous both during and after storms.
  • If you think that your tree may be dangerous, do not survey it!
  • If you are working near highways or waterways, take extra care and remain aware of your surroundings at all times.
  • It is always preferable to work with someone else, not only for your mutual safety but they may also be useful in conducting the survey! If you do work alone, always make sure that somebody knows where you are going, and take a fully charged mobile phone with you.

When visiting your tree take care to respect the landowner’s rights:

  • Do not access private land without explicit permission to do so.
  • Leave gates and property as you find them.
  • Respect livestock and wildlife.
  • Do not litter.
  • Follow the Countryside Code or similar guidelines for your country or region.

Volunteer Safety Statement

  1. You are responsible for your own health and safety while carrying out a survey. You take part in a survey entirely at your own risk.
  2. Volunteers under the age of 18 should always be accompanied by an adult.
  3. The Sylva Foundation does not accept any liability or responsibility for the well-being of any survey participants.
  4. The Sylva Foundation does not accept any liability or responsibility for damage to, or loss of, personal property.
  5. Volunteers are advised to follow these Survey Safety Guidelines.