White Ash (Fraxinus americana)
The white ash is the most common ash species found in North America. It is a tall, straight tree with a conical or rounded crown of foliage. The white ash has compound leaves that are made up of five to nine (usually seven) leaflets. Each leaflet is eight to twelve inches long and is oval to oblong in shape with very fine, saw-toothed edges. The leaflets are arrayed opposite each other and are dark green above and whitish-green below. This pale undersurface is visible even from the forest floor whenever a breeze ruffles through the crown of the ash tree.
Bark, Flowers and Seeds
The bark of the white ash is gray and is finely furrowed into close, diamond shapes. The bark on young trees may also have a tint of orange. The white ash flowers in the early spring. An individual tree will have either male or female flowers. The fruit that forms on the female trees is a one-seeded samara (seeds plus a 'wing' to aid dispersal) that falls in the late summer or early autumn. The samara are one to one and half inches long, brown and have a pointed, lance-like shape.
White ash seedlings grow well in the shaded conditions of the forest floor and are capable of very rapid growth. A
seedling may reach a height of six feet, for example, by the end of its third growing season.
The wood of the white ash is very dense and strong. The tree trunks and branches resist breakage from winter ice buildup or from windstorms. Looking around the white ash area of the Nature Trail you will see very little downed wood or broken trees. White ash makes excellent firewood and is used to make baseball bats, hockey sticks, tennis rackets and many other items that require a strong, resilient wood.