How many trees have the privilege of inspiring village names or even of becoming part of a legend? The narrow-leaved ash tree (Fraxinus angustifolia) that lives more than 200 years is one of such species and can be found all over the country.
You probably came across the word ash tree (freixo) used to name of a Portuguese village or hamlet, not least because its toponymy is there in around 20 villages. As regards the origin of the village of Freixo de Espada à Cinta (Ash Tree Holding a Sword) in the Douro region, for example, legend has it that in the 14th century, king of Portugal D. Dinis tied his sword to an ash tree next to the Castle Tower of this town and leaned on it to rest in its shade and regain strength after a battle.
Legends aside, the longevity of the narrow-leaved ash tree, also known as ash or common ash tree, is another outstanding characteristic of this tree. This fast-growing tree can grow for centuries and live more than 200 years. To prove, in the parish of Vila Cã, in Pombal, there is a specimen classified of public interest by the ICNF given its age – 500 years old. But what do we know about this species?
Indigenous from the western Mediterranean, southern Europe, northwest Africa and southwest Asia, it grows spontaneously throughout the country. The ash tree belongs to the Oleaceae family and is a medium-sized deciduous tree that can reach 25 meters in height, although the average height is between 10 and 15 metres.
It has a dark and straight trunk, albeit short. The bark is grey, rough and with quite deep cracks with a wide and dense oval crown with several branches. The branches, few in number, are equally greyish.
As for the spread of this species, it happens through seeds and its flowers usually appear in the spring, before the leaves, and pollination occurs with the help of the wind. Trees are between 15 and 25 cm long. The fruit (samara) has a brown-yellow colour and a terminal wing, which assists in dispersing the wind. It reaches maturity in September.