Oak Before Ash, or Ash Before Oak?

Oak Before Ash, or Ash Before Oak?

There is an old saying that you may have heard of. It goes something like this:

“Oak before ash, splash splash,
Ash before oak, and we’re in for a soak!”

One lesson that I have long since realised is that animals, birds, plant life and long term weather forecasters tend to be as unreliable in predicting long term climate events as is a bunch of seaweed hanging by your door.

We can, consequently, deal quite rapidly with the antique rhyme that indicates that if oaks come into leaf before ash trees, we are in for mild rain inside the summer season. however, if the pattern is the alternative way round, we’re in for a moist summertime. (It’s well worth noting that no other means is known that shows an entirely dry summer season, so at least this unique piece of folklore isn’t always completely ridiculous.) There is a similarly worded German proverb to ours, and I suspect that other countries have their age-old sayings as well.

That stated, the timing of the respective leafings of these stalwarts of the British woodland does tell us a few extraordinarily pertinent things about our climate and our woods. Both tree species come into leaf at an identical time of year (somewhere between March and May). Still, the actual timing of an oak tree coming into leaf is determined by the temperature, while ash trees slowly spring into life through the increasing amount of daytime hours. If spring arrives early in the year, with high temperatures in February and March, the oaks are likely to leaf first; if bloodless situations persist into April, ash is expected to have the advantage.

oak before ash

As our weather changes, Britain is experiencing an increasing number of heat spring months, and that is having a marked have an effect on our woodlands. Oak bushes have lately been leafing around two weeks in advance than they did 30 years in the past, even as ash trees are leafing just 7-10 days in advance.

While historical information suggests that ash used to leaf earlier a minimum of 30% of the time, current studies in Surrey recommend ash won the race on just three events in almost forty years. In Northumberland, the ash won on only three events in almost 30 years. In 2012 a comprehensive Woodland Trust survey showed the first observation of oaks coming into leaf was noted on 21st March 2011 in the county of Essex, whilst at the same time as the first ash springing into life wasn’t recorded till 4th April in Cardiff.


So does this matter, and if so, why? The challenge is that the oak and ash trees frequently compete for assets. Whichever tree comes into leaf first tends to win the conflict for canopy space, and the poor old ash increasingly loses out. As a result of this conflict, it will have a noticeable impact on the biodiversity of our native woodlands.

On the flip side, though, if by way of some miracle the vintage rhyme does come to be genuine, at the very least, we will in no way have a wet summer. Book that Staycation now.

Some facts about oak trees

Oak trees produce around ten million acorns over the lifetime of the tree. However, about one in a thousand actually grow into an oak tree

A fully grow oak can reach a height of around 150 feet (about 45 metres tall)

Oak trees have been on our planet for around 65 million years. They can live for 1000 years or more.

There are around 600 species of oak in total.

By the way – if you know any other sayings that you would like us to explore, leave a comment, or Contact Us

Source: April, Spring: Quotations, Poetry, Sayings, Ideas, Lore …. http://www.gardendigest.com/monapr.htm

06/02/2021 | Blog | 0 Comments

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