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White Ash Fraxinus americana

Other Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
FRAK-si-nus a-mer-ih-KAY-nah
Description

Fraxinus americana, or White Ash, is a deciduous tree, native to North Carolina and found throughout the state except for the lower coastal region (it does not tolerate exposure to salt air). It usually grows to 60 to 90 feet tall with a 2 to 3 foot trunk diameter, but it can reach 120 feet tall and is the largest of the native ashes. The White Ash grows best in the rich moist soils of mountain coves or river bottom lands. In the eastern part of the state, White Ash can typically be found with swamp chestnut, willow, cherrybark oak, loblolly pine, and sweet gum. In the west, it is more likely to be found among yellow poplar, black cherry, basswood, and oak. It can also extend into the beech-birch-maple forests at 4000 to 5000 foot elevations.

In open areas, the White Ash crown is ovoid, in forested areas the crown is more narrow and pyramidal. The leaves are opposite and pinnately compound with 5 to 9 (mostly 7) leaflets. The bark is yellow-brown to light gray and corky with deep furrows that separate short, pointed ridges. Small, light green to purple flowers, with no petals, mature in loose panicles in the spring. The tree produces a one-winged, dry, flattened samara with a full, rounded, seed cavity that matures in the fall.

Ash trees have male and female flowers on separate trees and only the female flowers develop into fruits. Purchasing male trees will prevent you from having to deal with the fruits which can be a bit of a nuisance near a walkway. It is worth considering planting female ash trees though, because the fruits are born in clusters among the foliage and add a sophisticated note of unusual dimension to the trees in late summer. The cultivars of White Ash are generally much more desirable than seedling trees and are well worth seeking out. White ash tends to be easily transplanted and established.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Pest Problems:  Planting new ash trees is no longer recommended due to the trees susceptibility to the emerald ash borer, a pest that feeds under the bark and bores into the wood. Emerald ash borer will will typically kill an ash tree within 3 to 5 years after infestation and, once infestation occurs, it is difficult to eradicate. Other potential problems are ash borer, lilac borer, carpenter worm, oyster shell scale, leaf miners, fall webworms, ash sawflies and ash leaf curl aphid.  Potential disease problems include fungal leaf spots, powdery mildew, rust, anthracnose, cankers and ash yellows.  General ash decline is also a concern.  Brittle branches are susceptible to damage from high winds, snow and ice.

VIDEO Created by Elizabeth Meyer for "Trees, Shrubs and Conifers" a plant identification course offered in partnership with Longwood Gardens.

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See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Autumn Applause'
    Maroon fall color, dense branching and gracefully drooping foliage.
  • 'Autumn Blaze'
    A female selection with purple fall color.
  • 'Autumn Purple'
    A male selection with excellent displays of purple-red foliage in the fall.
  • 'Chicago Regal'
    A vigorous grower which develops purple fall color.
  • 'Greenspire'
    Upright, narrow form that reaches 40' tall and 30' wide, fall color is dark orange.
  • 'Jeffnor'
    Seedless plant is notable for its extreme hardiness and resistance to winter damage.
  • 'Rose Hill'
  • 'Skycole'
    Grows symmetrically to 50' tall, strong central leader, lustrous green leaves turn orange or red in fall.
'Autumn Applause', 'Autumn Blaze', 'Autumn Purple', 'Chicago Regal', 'Greenspire', 'Jeffnor', 'Rose Hill', 'Skycole'
Tags:
#deciduous#fall color#wildlife plant#native tree#cover plant#tsc#rabbit resistant#playground#squirrels#small mammals#food source#cpp#low flammability#NC native#beavers#porcupines#deer resistant#children's garden#fire resistant#Braham Arboretum#fantz#nesting sites#larval host plant#food source fall#food source herbage#bird friendly#food source hard mast fruit#mammals#butterfly friendly#Piedmont Mountains FACU#Coastal FACU#tsc-t#butterflies#pollinator garden#audubon#eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Autumn Applause'
    Maroon fall color, dense branching and gracefully drooping foliage.
  • 'Autumn Blaze'
    A female selection with purple fall color.
  • 'Autumn Purple'
    A male selection with excellent displays of purple-red foliage in the fall.
  • 'Chicago Regal'
    A vigorous grower which develops purple fall color.
  • 'Greenspire'
    Upright, narrow form that reaches 40' tall and 30' wide, fall color is dark orange.
  • 'Jeffnor'
    Seedless plant is notable for its extreme hardiness and resistance to winter damage.
  • 'Rose Hill'
  • 'Skycole'
    Grows symmetrically to 50' tall, strong central leader, lustrous green leaves turn orange or red in fall.
'Autumn Applause', 'Autumn Blaze', 'Autumn Purple', 'Chicago Regal', 'Greenspire', 'Jeffnor', 'Rose Hill', 'Skycole'
Tags:
#deciduous#fall color#wildlife plant#native tree#cover plant#tsc#rabbit resistant#playground#squirrels#small mammals#food source#cpp#low flammability#NC native#beavers#porcupines#deer resistant#children's garden#fire resistant#Braham Arboretum#fantz#nesting sites#larval host plant#food source fall#food source herbage#bird friendly#food source hard mast fruit#mammals#butterfly friendly#Piedmont Mountains FACU#Coastal FACU#tsc-t#butterflies#pollinator garden#audubon#eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Fraxinus
    Species:
    americana
    Family:
    Oleaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    The juice from leaves used on mosquito bites for relief of swelling and itching and are a prophylactic measure for snake bites. The wood is tough, elastic, with a pleasing grain, and is used to make tennis racquets, hockey sticks, oars, furniture, and interior floors. White ash is the wood used for the Louisville Slugger baseball bat.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Eastern North America and Mexico
    Distribution:
    Eastern canada to Minnesota to west Colorado south to Texas east to Florida north up through Maine
    Fire Risk Rating:
    low flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    This plant supports the larvae of Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilo glaucus). They have three flights from February-November in the deep south and March-September in the north. The adult Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies feed on milkweed, joe pye weed, wild cherry, and lilac. The seeds of the White ash are enjoyed by birds, squirrel, and other small mammals.  White ash is a larval plant for tiger swallowtail and mourning cloak butterflies.  The bark is eaten by rabbits, porcupines and beavers.  The foliage is browsed by white-tailed deer.
    Play Value:
    Edible fruit
    Wildlife Cover/Habitat
    Wildlife Food Source
    Wildlife Nesting
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Resistant to fire in landscape. Generally tolerant of urban conditions.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 60 ft. 0 in. - 120 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 50 ft. 0 in. - 75 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Oval
    Pyramidal
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Deep shade (Less than 2 hours to no direct sunlight)
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    more than 60 feet
    NC Region:
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Cream/Tan
    Green
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Samara
    Fruit Length:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    Male flowers whither away while fertilized female flowers give way to drooping, 6 to 8 inch long clusters of one winged dry flattened samara (to 2 inches long) that ripen in fall and may persist on the tree throughout the winter. Fruit displays from August to October.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Green
    Purple/Lavender
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Panicle
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Shape:
    Tubular
    Flower Description:
    The flowers are primarily dioecious (separate male and female trees) grow in tight panicals. Clusters of apetalous purplish male and female flowers appear on separate trees in April-May before the late-to-emerge foliage. The flowers lack petals.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Purple/Lavender
    Leaf Feel:
    Smooth
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Compound (Pinnately , Bipinnately, Palmately)
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Shape:
    Lanceolate
    Oblong
    Obovate
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The 8 to 12 inch long leaves of the white ash are odd-pinnate compound leaves with 7 leaflets (less frequently 5 or 9). Oval to oblong-lanceolate leaflets (3 to 5 inches long) are dark green above and whitish green below with smooth margins. The foliage turns yellow with purple shading in the fall.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Brown
    Light Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Furrowed
    Ridges
    Bark Description:
    The ashy bark is yellow-brown to light gray and corky with deep furrows that separate short, pointed ridges in a net-like pattern.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Form:
    Straight
    Stem Leaf Scar Shape:
    C-shaped, Cresent shaped
    Stem Description:
    Upright, spreading stems. Stout twigs somewhat flattened at the point of leaf origin.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Recreational Play Area
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Children's Garden
    Edible Garden
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Shade Tree
    Street Tree
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Drought
    Fire
    Rabbits
    Urban Conditions
    Wet Soil