Most people are familiar with the White Ash (Fraxinus americana L.). However, there are other Ash tree species native to America. One of them is the Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvatica Marshall).
Green Ashes are members of the Order Lamiales, of the Family Oleaceae, and of the Tribe Oleeae. The generic name, Fraxinus, is a Latin name for this tree and is of unknown origin. It may have come from phraxis, which is “separation”, because Ashes were used as hedges. The specific epithet, pennsylvanica, is Latin for “of Pennsylvania”.
Previous scientific synonyms for this species were Fraxinus campestris Britton, Fraxinus darlingtonii Britton, Fraxinus lanceolata Borkhausen, Fraxinus pubescens Lamarck, Fraxinus smallii Britton, and Fraxinus viridis L. Michaux.
Other common names for this tree are Bastard Ash, Black Ash, Blue Ash, Brown Ash, Darlington Ash, Downy Ash, Red Ash, Rim Ash, River Ash, Soft Ash, Swamp Ash, Water Ash, and White Ash. Green Ash and Red Ash were once considered as separate species but have now been lumped into one species. The common name, Ash, is from the Anglo-Saxon word, aesc, which is “spear”, which was made from this wood.
Green Ashes are moderately tolerant of flooding, droughts, climate extremes, smog, and salt spray. They are moderately tolerant to intolerant of shade and are a moderately fast-growing and a medium long-lived tree.
DESCRIPTION OF THE GREEN ASH
Height: Its height is 40-100 feet.
Diameter: Its trunk diameter is 1-4 feet.
Crown: Its crown is dense, compact, irregular, and broadly rounded. Its branches are ascending, spreading, or looped downward. Its weak, jointed limbs can break under heavy ice or during high windstorms.
Trunk: Its trunk is tall, straight, upright, and is swollen at the base.
Twigs: Its twigs are rounded, slender to moderately stout, rigid, and are ashy gray to light brown with a reddish tinge. They are hairy-velvety for the first 1-3 years and are glossy during their subsequent years. They have pale lenticels. White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus Zimmermann) eat these twigs.
Its leaf scars are large, broad, shield-shaped, and semicircular. They not deeply notched but may have a slight notch upon their straight upper surface. Each leaf scar has 4 or more bundle scars.
Buds: Its terminal buds are red-brown, hairy, and have a granular surface texture. It is ¼ inches long, blunt, rounded or pyramidal shaped, and has 4-6 scales. Its lateral buds are smaller, oval, and opposite. Its uppermost lateral buds are located near the terminal bud.
Leaves: Its leaves are deciduous, opposite, and odd-pinnately compound. Its petioles are stout and glabrous or pubescent. Each leaf is 6-14 inches long and has 5-11 leaflets.
Each leaflet is a bright glossy yellow-green on the top and lighter with pale or reddish hairs on the bottom. It has a ¼ inch stalk. It is ovate, elliptic, or oblong-lanceolate; has taper-pointed tips and bases; about 1-6 inches long; about ¾-2 inches wide; and slightly toothed above the middle. It has 8-12 pairs of lateral, parallel veins. The central stalk (rachis) is slightly hairy and grooved. The stalks of the 2 most basal leaflets are flattened or are winged. These leaves turn yellow-brown or red-brown in the fall with the leaflets falling singly.
Flowers: Its flowers are dioecious and are arranged in densely and compactly panicled clustered in the axils of the previous year’s leaves. The stalks are hairy. Each flower is 1/8 inches long. These flowers have no corolla.
The male flowers have a small, slightly toothed, cup-shaped calyx; 2-3 stamens with pale green, purple-tinged, linear-oblong anthers and short filaments. They are arranged in small, rounded, yellow fluffed clusters.
The female flowers have a deeply divided, cup-shaped calyx; 2 green stigma lobes, a long single style, and a 2-celled ovary. They are small, wispy, and purple.
These flowers are wind-pollinated. The pollen is shed over a period of 3-4 days.
Flowering season is April to May, before the leaves emerge. These trees produce flowers after 10-15 years and flower nearly every year.
Fruit: Its fruit is arranged in a long, panicled cluster. Each fruit is 1-2½ inches long; ¼- ½ inches wide; light green, yellow, or tan; wedge-shaped; and winged. It is a single-seeded samara (nutlet). The wing’s outer tip is squared or notched. Its seed is plump, narrow, long, cylindrical, and tapered. Fruiting season is September to October.
This fruit is wind-dispersed and breaks from the clusters individually. These fruits spin as they fall and may hit the ground like darts. These seeds may remain dormant within the litter for several years before germinating. Some fruits may persist upon the tree throughout the winter.
Northern Bobwhite Quails (Colinus virginianus L.), Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo L.), Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis L.), Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa L.), Squirrels (Family Sciuridae), and other Rodents (Order Rodentia) eat these seeds.
Roots: Its roots are shallow and widespread.
Bark: Its young bark is tight and is gray brown. It has squared scales that become shallow ridges and furrows that become broken horizontally into small rectangular blocks. Its mature bark has longitudinal, rough intersecting ridges and furrows that form an irregular diamond-shaped pattern. It is ½ or more inches thick. Its inner bark is cinnamon colored or reddish.
Wood: Its wood is hard, tough, heavy, moderately strong, brittle, flexible, lightweight, and coarse- and straight-grained. Its heartwood is light gray brown and its sapwood is thicker, lighter, and streaked with yellow. This tree has distinct annual growth rings.
Habitat: Its habitats consist of moist or wet lowlands, such as floodplains, streambanks wooded swamps, and pond and stream margins. Green Ashes are rarely found in pure stands.
Range: Its range covers much of southern Canada and the eastern 2/3 of the U.S., excluding parts of New England, New York, Pennsylvania, and Florida. This species has the widest and the most northern distribution of all North American Ash species. They are also the only native Ash in the Great Plains.
Uses of the Green Ash:
Green Ashes have a lot of uses. Both the Native Americans and the European settlers had uses for this plant.
The wood is used for sporting goods, tool handles, crates, boxes, pallets, picture frames, flooring, interior finish, cabinetry, electric guitars, railroad ties, pulpwood, and veneer. It makes good fuel because it makes a quick, hot fire. The wood ashes were a good source of potash. This wood is often marketed with White Ash but is inferior to White Ash.
The growth layers of the wood were beaten by mauls until they separated. These separated layers were cut into strips and were used in basketry.
Green Ashes are planted as ornamentals, as shade trees, as shelterbelts, and in mine reclamations. They are often planted as street trees.
Green Ash had some medicinal uses. The bark was rubbed upon the skin for insect bites. The inner bark infusion was used for treating depression, fatigue, and fevers. It was also used as a tonic and as an astringent. The leaves were used as a tonic. The roots were used as a diuretic.
The bark had other uses, too. A red dye was extracted from the inner bark.
Green Ash also has some edible uses. The cambium layer was scraped down into long, fluffy layers and cooked. It was either boiled or dried, ground up, and mixed into soups or with various grain flours for making bread.
Red Ashes have their own threats. They are susceptible to diseases like Anthracnose, Leaf Spots, Heart Rot, Rust, and Verticillium Wilt. They are susceptible to insects and other invertebrates like Oystershell Scale (Lepidosaphes ulmi L.), Aphids (Superfamily Aphidoidea), Ash Plant Bug (Tropidosteptes amoenus Reuter), Ash Sawflies (Family Tenthredinidae), Ash/Lilac Borers (Podosesia syringae Harris), Ash Spider Mite (Tetranychus homorus Pritchard & Baker), Red-headed Ash Borer (Neoclytus acuminatus Fabricius), and Gypsy Moths (Lymantria dispar L.). Like the White Ash, these trees are also victims of the Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire).
By Burton V. Barnes and Warren H. Wagner, Jr.
FALL COLOR AND WOODLAND HARVESTS
By C. Ritchie Bell and Anne H. Lindsey
AN ECLECTIC GUIDE TO TREES (EAST OF THE ROCKIES)
By Glen Blouin
THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EDIBLE PLANTS OF NORTH AMERICA
By Francois Couplan, Ph. D.
TREES OF THE NORTHERN UNITED STATES AND CANADA
By John Laird Farrar
FROREST TREES OF ILLINOIS
By Jay C. Hayek, Editor
101 TREES OF INDIANA
By Marion T. Jackson
OUR NATIVE TREES
By Harriet Keeler
TREES OF ONTARIO
By Linda Kershaw
NATIONAL WILDLIFE FEDERATION GUIDE TO TREES OF NORTH AMERICA
By Bruce Kershner, Daniel Mathews, Gil Nelson, and Richard Spellenberg
TREES OF MISSOUIR
By Don Kurz
TREES OF THE CENTRAL HARDWOOD FORESTS OF NORTH AMERICA
By Donald J. Leopold, William C. McComb, and Robert N. Muller
NATIONAL AUDUBON SOCIETY FIELD GUIDE TO NORTH AMERICAN TREES (EASTERN REGION)
By Elbert L. Little
HOW TO KNOW THE TREES
By Howard A. Miller and H. E. Jaques
NATIVE AMERICAN MEDICINAL PLANTS
By Daniel E. Moerman
A NATURAL HISTORY OF TREES OF EASTERN AND CENTRAL NORTH AMERICA
By Donald Culross Peattie
By George A. Petrides
THE URBAN TREE BOOK
By Arthur Plotnik
THE SIBLEY GUIDE TO TREES
By David Allen Sibley
By T. Davis Sydnor and William F. Cowen
AMERICAN INDIAN MEDICINE
By Virgil J. Vogel
NATIVE TREES OF THE MIDWEST
By Sally S. Weeks, Harmon P. Weeks, Jr., and George R. Parker
BARK: A FIELD GUIDE TO TREES OF THE NORTHEAST
By Michael Wojteck