Some of the grandest giants in the park.
Below are two lofty old ashes (left and centre) early on a sunny February morning. Thick brown bunches of keys are still hanging from the branches, particularly at the crowns.
There are several outstanding old Common Ash trees (Fraxinus excelsior) around the Meadows and Links.
Many of them are at threat from ash dieback, a fungal disease that appeared in the UK in 2012 and has now reached Edinburgh. The council forestry team hope to keep the city's ashes safe by pruning infected limbs, digging up dying trees and collecting leaves for disposal. Recent news from Denmark suggests that a decent percentage of trees may be resistant.
But nothing lasts for ever: trees die but new ones are planted. At the end of this page there are some pics of the lovely young Raywood ashes which are among my favourites in the park.
The hanging masses of brown keys, by the way, are not a sign of ill-health. This is just how ashes look in autumn.
Below, here's that same ash tree (near the short hole golf course and Golf Tavern) now bare, in the astonishing light of a red sky in January 2016 as Storm Henry approached. I had to wrap my arms round a lamppost to stay steady to take the photos, and my hands were soon frozen.
Photographing ashes in summer is less arduous.
They're recognisable by their black-tipped twigs and of course the lovely symmetrical sweeps of leaves
In winter, the Common Ash is most easily recognised by the hanging bunches of brown keys that decorate many of the trees and can last until spring
Another major feature is the distinctive black tips of the twigs (think of cigarette ash as a memory aid).
Here's some ash buds just about to erupt into flower, at the start of April. You can see the dozens of tiny flower heads curled inside the buds.
By mid-April, they're in full colour
By late May, the leaves still aren't fully out, but are clearly ash
Throughout the Meadows & Links, several Raywood ashes (Fraxinus angustifolia 'Raywood') have appeared: for instance, eight were planted along Melville Drive in 2003. They look quite different in many ways from the Common Ash so I'll consider them separately. They're not so easy to identify and I'm not 100% certain about these examples I've shown below.
In autumn, these take on a translucent pink glow.
The tips of their twigs are a reddish-brown rather than the black of the Common Ash, but the shape of the buds and the tiny flowers are similar.