The young white ash pictured here sprouted in the southern fence row of an old pasture. It’s an attractive specimen and, with the threat of the emerald ash borer bearing down on us, I may make the decision to protect this tree with an approved pesticide. The picture of the leaves below provides a look at the developing fall color. I will track this tree throughout the seasons to demonstrate all phases of the white ash and to keep you posted on the impact, if any, of the emerald ash borer in my region.
Tree ID Hint: If you see a tree with the opposite leaf, twig, and bud arrangement in the northeast, it is usually an ash or maple. If it has simple leaves, it is a maple; if compound leaves, it is an ash. Continue reading below for specifics on identifying white ashes.
Common Name: White Ash
Scientific Name: Fraxinus americana
Leaves: Opposite, compound, about 10 inches long with 5-9 leaflets; leaflets 3-5 inches long, about 1- inches broad, evidently-stalked, slightly serrate on margin, acute at apex, wedge-shaped to rounded at base; when full grown usually smooth and dark green above and pale below; a few hairs are sometimes found along the veins on the lower surface.
Flowers: Appear about May before the leaves; staminate and pistillate flowers on different trees; staminate occur in dense reddish-purple cluster,pistillate in rather open panicles.
Fruit: A samara borne in dense drooping panicles about 7 inches long; panicles often persist far into winter; individual samara 1-2 inches long, consists of a seed bearing portion and a winged portion; seed portion round in cross-section, terminated ‘by the wing which aids in the dispersal of the seed. Since some trees bear staminate flowers only, seeds are never found on them; trees bearing pistillate flowers alone produce seeds.
Twig: Opposite, stout, usually smooth, sometimes covered with a slight bloom, decidedly flattened at the nodes; during the first winter grayish-brown in color, and decidedly lustrous; covered by scattered, large, pale lenticels.
Bark: Grayish-brown, rather thick upon older trunks, decidedly divided by diamond-shaped fissures into rather flattened ridges which are covered by thin, close-fitting scales; longitudinal ridges often transversely-fissured so that the primary fissures are connected
Form: Usually reaches a height of 70 80 ft. with a diameter of 2-3 ft., but may attain a height of 120 ft. with a diameter of 56 ft.; trunk usually tall, massive, clear from branches for a considerable distance from the ground when grown in the forest, bearing a narrow, somewhat pyramidal crown; when open grown the crown is decidedly round-topped and often extends almost to the ground; in forest grown trees trunk often continuous and dividing into a number of spreading branches.
Importance of White Ash: White ash wood is white, dense, strong, and straight-grained; used for furniture, flooring, tool handles and baseball bats. Note: This species has been decimated by the emerald ash borer, and virtually eliminated from the woods and landscape in vast regions.