Fraxinus ornus L. is a species belonging to the Oleaceae family (known as manna ash or manna tree in the areas where manna is produced). It is a tree or shrub 4 to 8 meters in height that is often found in the form of a bush.
From a systematic point of view, the Ornament belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, Kingdom Plantae, Magnoliophyta Division, Magnoliopsida Class, Scrophulariales Order, Oleaceae Family and therefore to the Genus Fraxinus and to the F. ornus Species.
The term used for this genus seems to date back to frasso, which in Greek has the meaning of “I defend”, perhaps due to the dense intertwining that plants constitute in some habitats. The Ornus epithet was probably chosen for the ornamental relief that the plant can assume due to the beautiful flowering.
Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
The manna ash is a sub-Mediterranean-mountainous element, with a range extending from the Iberian Peninsula to Asia Minor; in Italy it is widespread throughout the peninsula and islands. Vegeta at medium-low altitudes, however, being able to climb up to 1400-1500 meters in Southern Italy. In a broad sense, the species grows on little evolved soils, mainly derived from carbonate rocks, with a neutral-basic reaction and with reduced water availability. The hornbeam is almost always associated with the black hornbeam (Ostrya carpinifolia): orno-ostrieti, because the two species have coincidental needs in terms of edaphic (limestone-dolomitic substrates) and climatic (south-facing slopes and therefore hot and dry).
The two entities, very widespread, are found together in different types with an almost constant cortege of herbaceous and shrubby species.
In peninsular and insular Italy, in addition to being associated with the hornbeam, the hornbeam often coexists with species of the genus Quercus (holm oak, downy oak and Turkey oak mainly), of the genus Acer, with the chestnut and with the species of the high Mediterranean scrub, while in the north-east of Italy primitive formations can be found in gorges, on cliffs sometimes associated with holm oak and on detrital-type slopes.
The Orniello has an erect, slightly tortuous trunk, with opposite ascending branches with smooth greyish, opaque bark, reddish tomentose buds; the crown of this plant is wide and is formed by opposite deciduous leaves, imparipinnate, with 5-9 segments (more often 7), of which the lateral ones measure 5-10 cm, are elliptical or lanceolate, briefly petiolate and a third wide of their length. The central segment, on the other hand, is about half its length wide and is obovate; the upper face is of a beautiful green color, while the lower one is lighter and hairier along the ribs.
The Orniello has panicle-shaped inflorescences, generally apical and axillary; the flowers are generally hermaphrodite and perfumed, with a short pedicel, they have a campanulate calyx with four lanceolate and unequal laciniae of a green-yellowish color; the corolla has white petals slightly tinged with pink, linear, 5-6 mm long.
The fruit is an oblong samara, wedged at the base, widely winged at the apex, 2-3 cm long and with a single compressed seed of about one centimeter.
For cultivation see present card.
Customs and Traditions –
The roots, bark of young branches, leaves, fruits, buds and manna are used of the Manna tree. Manna has already been mentioned in a more widespread manner.
Manna is primarily a mild laxative with no contraindications, particularly suitable for early childhood, for the very elderly, debilitated and convalescent (it is generally administered in milk, or as a decoction of manna, which is a mild purgative); it is an intestinal regulator and refresher, as it purifies the digestive system of toxins and burdens due to poor nutrition. It is also a natural cosmetic, and has a beneficial action on the respiratory system, in fact it acts as a fluidifying, emollient and sedative for coughs; it is also a natural sweetener with low glucose and fructose content, which can be used as a sweetener for diabetics. Manna has numerous therapeutic virtues and is harmless and free of relevant secondary actions, which among other things makes it particularly recommendable in pediatrics: it is indicated in cases of indigestion and hypertension, it has bechiche and anti-catarrhal properties, it is a cough suppressant and calming in bronchitis; bits of manna dissolved in the mouth slowly have expectorant properties. Finally, it can be used as eye drops in ocular congestions.
The chemical composition of the manna is very complex and depends on several factors including: quality, area of origin, the age of the ash and its exposure, the seasonal trend and many other factors. Manna on average contains 40-60 % mannitol or mannite (C6H14O6), 8-10% humidity, 3-5% glucose and fructose, 12-16% manninotriose, 6-12% manninotetrose, 1-3% mineral elements, 0.5% -0 , 1% resin and other substances in minor quantities (vitamins, enzymes, mucilages, pectins, tannins).
The dried roots of this plant instead give a diuretic action drug; the bark, also dried, has eupeptic, tonic (decoction), febrifugal and antidiarrheal (powder) properties; the leaves and fruits are diuretics, antirheumatics and laxatives (infusion); the buds picked fresh in spring give a macerate with beneficial biliary, renal, anti-cellulite and anti-gout action.
The wood, although having characteristics and properties similar to those of the greater ash, has less noble uses, due to the small size of the trunks and is frequently used as an excellent fuel. In recent times, the cornflower is often used in artificial plants in hilly and lowland areas for the production of woody biomass. As already mentioned, this plant is very important in forestry for the reforestation of poor, arid, calcareous or clayey soils or as an ornamental plant in large parks and gardens, even on dry and shallow soils.
Other uses are as a medicinal and medicinal plant and for the extraction of tannins from the bark. Dell’Orniello leaves are used as fodder for livestock, in areas poor in pastures.
In the production of timber it should be remembered that the ash wood has a light brown heartwood, with distinct rings and with large vessels in the spring area, it is elastic and resistant, easily workable. It is used industrially for the production of furniture, for various tools, for lathe work and as an excellent fuel.
The dried and crushed leaves and the fruits infused in boiling water provide the ash tea. The infusion of the leaves collected in late spring early summer and dried in the sun is used as an emollient. The leaves fermented with water and sucrose are used to prepare alcoholic beverages.
The decoction of manna, a white-yellowish solid substance obtained from the sugary juice that flows from the lesions of the bark and which quickly congeals in contact with the air, collected in summer, is a mild purgative, it also has bechic and anti-catarrhal properties; can be used as eye drops in ocular congestions; bits of manna dissolved in the mouth slowly have expectorant properties.
The use of the Orniello for various purposes is lost in the mists of time. After all, the plant was known since ancient times – the melia of Dioscorides and the melos of the modern Greeks – and such is the spread in north-eastern Sicily and in the Nebroide area that it has also given rise to more than one toponym and surnames.
Preparation Method –
Some products obtained from the use of manna in pastry are also beginning to be known by the general public, and perhaps the best known is the “mannetto”, a sort of panettone produced in Castelbuono (PA) and exported all over the world. With lamanna they prepare nougat, all kinds of sweets, pralines, ice creams, etc., even homemade.
Manna – used in various ways by the confectionery industry and increasingly known as more media attention is paid to niche products. Manna can also be taken as a food-medicine, dissolved in milk against constipation. It seems that seeds are also used in the food tradition in Egypt. Here are some recipes for pharmacological use:
Laxative: manna 40 g, hot water 100 g. Shake, melt, filter and then add 30 g of acacia honey.
Purgative: manna 60 g, hot milk 150 g. It shakes, melts and filters.
Against bronchial catarrh (Zanetti jam): manna 60 g, marshmallow syrup 4-5 g, cooked cassia 30 g, sweet almond oil 30 g, cocoa butter 23 g, orange flower water 15 g.
Joint rheumatism: boil 60 gr. In a liter of water. of ash leaves, sweeten and consume 2 cups a day.
Diuresis and intestinal regulator: prepare infusion with 25 gr. of ash leaves in 100 ml. of water and consume 2-3 cups a day.
Inflammatory fever: prepare decoction with 25-30 gr. of ash bark in 100 ml. of water, correct the flavor with honey and consume 2-3 cups a day.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (edited by), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; therefore no responsibility is taken for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.