Living Ash Project (Legacy)

Developing and optimising vegetative propagation techniques for ash trees (Fraxinus excelsior) demonstrating tolerance of ash die back disease. This project has now concluded.

Dense clusters of petal-less European ash flowers

Common ash (Fraxinus excelsior) is the third most common tree species in the UK and of enormous economic and biodiversity importance, with an estimated social and environmental value of £230 million a year in Great Britain alone.

Unfortunately, the species faces an unprecedented threat – ash dieback disease (ADB), caused by the fungal pathogen Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, which it is predicted will cause the death of up to 90% of ash trees in the UK. A small proportion of trees have shown tolerance of ADB, however, providing a means of restoring ash to our native woodlands and securing a long-term future for the species in the UK.  

The Living Ash Project (LAP) aimed to identify ash trees with good tolerance of ADB, to secure this material for further breeding and make it available to industry to support seed production and replanting. The project was led by the Future Trees Trust and funded by Defra, with inputs from Forest Research, Fera and RBG Kew. 

Kew’s principal role within the LAP was to investigate and optimise techniques for propagating ADB-tolerant material via cuttings. Material from tolerant trees is typically grafted onto seed-raised rootstocks – although grafting yields high success rates, research suggests the rootstocks themselves may become infected by ADB. Propagating tolerant material on their own roots via cuttings will eliminate this step and the risk of ADB infection through the rootstock. 

Project managers

Ted Chapman
Chris Cockel


Isabel Negri
Jo Wenham 
Alice Livingstone 

Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (Defra)