ASCUS (Gr. ἀσκός, a bag), a botanical term for the membranous sacs containing the reproductive spores in certain lichens and fungi. Various compounds of the word are used, e.g. ascophorous, producing asci; ascospore, the spore (or sporule) developed in the ascus; ascogonium, the organ producing it, &c.
ASELLI [Asellius, or Asellio], GASPARO (1581–1626), Italian physician, was born at Cremona about 1581, became professor of anatomy and surgery at Pavia, and practised at Milan, where he died in 1626. To him is due the discovery of the lacteal vessels, published in De Lactibus (Milan, 1627).
ASGILL, JOHN (1659–1738), English writer, was born at Hanley Castle, in Worcestershire, in 1659. He was bred to the law, and gained considerable reputation in his profession, increased by two pamphlets—the first (1696) advocating the establishment of some currency other than the usual gold and silver, the second (1698) on a registry for titles of lands. In 1699, when a commission was appointed to settle disputed claims in Ireland, he set out for that country, attracted by the hopes of practice. Before leaving London he put in the hands of the printer a tract, entitled An Argument proving that, according to the Covenant of Eternal Life revealed in the Scripture, Man may be translated from hence into that Eternal Life without passing through Death (1700). Coleridge has highly praised the “genuine Saxon English,” the “irony” and “humour” of this extraordinary pamphlet, which interpreted the relation between God and man by the technical rules of law, and insisted that, Christ having wiped out Adam's sin, the penalty of death must consequently be illegal for those who claim exemption. How far it was meant seriously was doubted at the time, and may be doubted now. But its fame preceded the author to Ireland, and was of material service in securing his professional success, so that he amassed money, purchased an estate, and married a daughter of the second Lord Kenmare. He was returned both to the Irish and English parliaments, but was expelled from both on account of his “blasphemous” pamphlet. He was also involved in money difficulties, and litigation about his Irish estate, and these circumstances may have had something to do with his trouble in parliament. In 1707 he was arrested for debt, and the remainder of his life was spent in the Fleet prison, or within the rules of the king's bench. He died in 1738. Asgill also wrote in 1714–1715 some pamphlets defending the Hanoverian succession against the claims of the Pretender.
ASH (Ger. Esche), a common name (Fr. frêne) given to certain trees. The common ash (Fraxinus excelsior) belongs to the natural order Oleaceae, the olive family, an order of trees and shrubs which includes lilac, privet and jasmine. The Hebrew word Oren, translated “ash” in Isaiah xliv. 14, cannot refer to an ash tree, as that is not a native of Palestine, but probably refers to the Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis). The ash is a native of Great Britain and the greater part of Europe, and also extends to Asia. The tree is distinguished for its height and contour, as well as for its graceful foliage. It attains a height of from 50 to 80 ft., and flowers in March and April, before the leaves are developed. The reddish flowers grow in clusters, but are not showy. They are naked, that is without sepals or petals, and generally imperfect, wanting either stamens or pistil. The large leaves, which are late in appearing, are pinnately compound, bearing four to seven pairs of gracefully tapering toothed leaflets on a slender stalk. The dry winged fruits, the so-called keys, are a characteristic feature and often remain hanging in bunches long after the leaves have fallen in autumn. The leaves fall early, but the greyish twigs and black buds render the tree conspicuous in winter and especially in early spring.
The ash is in Britain next in value to the oak as a timber-tree. It requires a good deep loam with gravelly subsoil, and a situation naturally sheltered, such as the steep banks of glens, rivers or lakes; in cold and wet clay it does not succeed. As the value of the timber depends chiefly on its toughness and elasticity, it is best grown in masses where the soil is good; the trunk is thus drawn up free from large side-branches. The tree is easily propagated from seeds; it throws up strong root shoots. The ash requires much light, but grows rapidly, and its terminal shoots pierce easily through thickets of beech, with which it is often associated. Unmixed ash plantations are seldom satisfactory, because the foliage does not sufficiently cover the ground; but when mixed with beech it grows well, and attains great height and girth. Owing to the dense mass of roots which it sends out horizontally a little beneath the surface of the ground, the ash does much harm to vegetation beneath its shade, and is therefore obnoxious as a hedgerow tree. Coppice shoots yield excellent hop-poles, crates, hoops, whip-handles, &c. The timber is much used for agricultural implements, and by coach-builders and wheelwrights.
A variety of the common species, known as var. heterophylla, has simple leaves. It occurs wild in woods in Europe and England. Another variety of ash (pendula) is met with in which the branches are pendulous and weeping. Sometimes this variety is grafted on the tall stem of the common ash, so as to produce a pleasing effect. It is said that the weeping variety was first observed at Gamlingay, in Cambridgeshire. A variety (crispa) occurs with curled leaves, and another with warty stems and branches, called verrucosa. F. Ornus is the manna ash (see Manna), a handsome tree with greenish-white flowers and native in south Europe. In southern Europe there is a small-leaved ash, called Fraxinus parvifolia. F. floribunda, a large tree with terminal panicles of white flowers, is a native of the Himalayas. In America there are several species—such as Fraxinus americana, the white ash; F. pubescens, the red ash; and F. sambucifolia, the black ash.
The “mountain ash” belongs to a totally different family from the common ash. It is called Pyrus Aucuparia, and belongs to the natural order Rosaceae, and the tribe Pomeae, which includes also apples, pears, &c. Its common name is probably due to its resemblance to the true ash, in its smooth grey bark, graceful ascending branches, and especially the form of the leaf, which is also pinnately compound but smaller than in the true ash. Its common name in Scotland is the rowan tree; it is well known by its clusters of white blossoms and succulent scarlet fruit. The name of poison ash is given to Rhus venenata, the North American poison elder or sumach, belonging to the Anacardiaceae (Cashew family). The bitter ash of the West Indies is Simaruba excelsa, which belongs to the natural order Simarubaceae. The Cape ash is Ekebergia capensis, belonging to the natural order Meliaceae, a large tree, a native of the Cape of Good Hope. The prickly ash, Xanthoxylon Clava-Herculis (nat. ord. Xanthoxyleae), a native of the south-eastern United States, is a small tree, the trunk of which is studded with corky tubercles, while the branches are armed with stout, sharp, brown prickles.
A‘SHĀ [Maimūn ibn Qais], Arabian poet, was born before Mahomet, and lived long enough to accept the mission of the prophet. He was born in Manfūha, a village of al-Yemāma in the centre of Arabia, and became a wandering singer, passing through all Arabia from Hadramut in the south to al-Hīra in the north, and naturally frequenting the annual fair at Okaz (Ukāz). His love poems are devoted to the praise of Huraira, a black female slave. Even before the time of Mahomet he is said to have believed in the resurrection and last judgment, and to have been a monotheist. These beliefs may have been due to his intercourse with the bishop of Nejrān (Najrān) and the ‘Ibādites (Christians) of al-Hīra. His poems were praised for their descriptions of the wild ass, for the praise of wine, for their skill in praise and satire, and for the varieties of metre employed. His best-known poem is that in praise of Mahomet.
ASHANTI, a British possession in West Africa, bounded W. by the (French) Ivory Coast colony, N. by the British Protectorate known as Northern Territories of the Gold Coast (see
- The homonym, ash or (pl.) ashes, the residue (of a body, &c.) after burning, is a common Teutonic word, Ger. Asche, connected with the root found in Lat. ardere, to burn.