In his Gardener’s Dictionary (ed. 1768), Philip Miller published the name F. rotundifolia for a plant with ovate-lanceolate serrate leaflets and coloured flowers, which ‘come out of the side of the branches … before the leaves come out. This tree is of humble growth, seldom rising more than fifteen or sixteen feet in England.’ He said the tree was a native of Calabria, which produced the manna, and identified it with the Fraxinus rotundiore folio of Bauhin. The ash so named had been described and figured by the pre-Linnean botanist Jean Bauhin in 1650, from a specimen brought by his brother Caspar from Italy as Ornus n. 3. Most probably this was the true manna ash F. ornus. On the other hand the cultivated tree described by Miller seems to have belonged to the section Fraxinaster, and could have been F. oxycarpa or some variant of F. excelsior. Unfortunately there is no specimen of Miller’s plant in the Herbarium of the British Museum (where many of his types are preserved), so it is impossible to be certain about the identity of the plant.
This problem is mentioned here because F. rotundifolia Mill, has been used in some works as the name for F. parvifolia or even for F. oxycarpa. It is better regarded as a name of uncertain application. See further below.
F. parvifolia Lam. F. rotundifolia sens. Rehd. and other authors – The French botanist Lamarck saw that Miller had confused two distinct ashes (see above). He restricted the name F. rotundifolia to Bauhin’s plant, which he accepted as being the true manna ash, and published the name F. parvifolia for an ash growing in the royal garden at Paris, which he evidently considered to be the same as the tree of English gardens described by Miller (Encl. Meth., Vol. 2 (1786), p. 546).
Lamarck’s F. parvifolia has been recognised by many later botanists as a distinct species, though usually under the name F. rotundifolia Mill., with F. parvifolia Lam. as a synonym. It seems to be closely allied to F. oxycarpa, differing in its relatively wider leaflets and its narrow, parallel-sided fruits. If the two species were to be combined, it would be under the name F. parvifolia Lam., which has many years’ priority over F. oxycarpa.
A tree at Kew received from Späth’s nursery in 1894 as F. parvifolia seems to be F. oxycarpa, but judging from a specimen taken from it in 1911 the leaflets on some of the leaves were relatively broader when the tree was young than they are now. There is also in cultivation at Kew a small, gnarled, burry tree which was listed in early editions of the Kew Hand-list as F. parvifolia var. nana, with F. lentiscifolia nana Hort. and F. tamariscifolia var. nana Dippel as synonyms.. Later this tree was transferred to F. rotundifolia. Its identity is uncertain, but it could well be a dwarf form of F. oxycarpa.