Mountain Ash and Oak

Wild West Yorkshire, Wednesday 27 October 2010

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common oakI COLLECTED these autumn leaves from our front lawn as we set out for visiting time this evening. I thought this compound leaf was ash, as it grows nearby in the valley, but I've just realised that it hasn't blown as far as that; it's a leaf from the rowan or mountain ash the grows by our driveway. Ash tends to have fewer pairs of leaflets and they're more oval and the margins aren't quite as prominently toothed. The similarity is suggested in the name but the two trees aren't related; common ash is a member of the olive family while mountain ash is from teh Rosaceae; the Rose family

Oak and ash are two of the characteristic native trees of the area; ash on poorer, stony, free-draining soils, common oak, Quercus robur, on richer soils. Common oak is the dominant species in lowland England, replaced on steeper, rockier slopes of the north-west by sessile oak, Quercus petraea. The ranges of the two overlap here in West Yorkshire, on the edge of the Pennine chain.

The ears at the base of this oak leaf (left) are characteristic of common oak. The upland oak has tapering ends to the leaf. Sessile refers to its acorns which grow - stalkless or on very short stems - directly from the twig.

“Can you draw a flower tomorrow?” Asks Barbara's mum as I draw my two 'leaves of the day' during visiting time!

Richard Bell, illustrator

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