By: Liz Baessler
White ash trees (Fraxinus americana) are native to the eastern United States and Canada, ranging naturally from Nova Scotia to Minnesota, Texas, and Florida. Keep reading to learn white ash tree facts and how to grow a white ash tree.
White Ash Tree Facts
Growing a white ash tree is a long process. If they don’t succumb to disease, the trees can live to be 200 years old. They grow at a moderate rate of about 1 to 2 feet (30 to 60 cm.) per year. At maturity, they tend to reach between 50 and 80 feet (15 to 24 m.) in height and 40 to 50 feet (12 to 15 m.) in width.
They also tend to have one leader trunk, with evenly spaced branches growing in a dense, pyramidal fashion. Because of their branching tendencies, they make very good shade trees. The compound leaves grow in 8- to 15-inch (20 to 38 cm.) long clusters of smaller leaflets. In the fall, these leaves turn stunning shades of red to purple.
In the spring, the trees produce purple flowers that give way to 1- to 2-inch (2.5 o 5 cm.) long samaras, or single seeds, surrounded by papery wings.
White Ash Tree Care
Growing a white ash tree from seed is possible, though more success is had when they’re transplanted as seedlings. Seedlings grow best in full sun but will tolerate some shade.
White ash prefers moist, rich, deep soil and will grow well in a wide range of pH levels.
Unfortunately, white ash is susceptible to a serious problem called ash yellows, or ash dieback. It tends to occur between 39 and 45 degrees of latitude. Another serious problem of this tree is the emerald ash borer.
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Read more about Ash Trees
Know your plant community to select the right species
The potential of a woodland to provide timber, wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities depends on its plant community.
A native plant community is a group of plants that interact with each other and their environment and have not been greatly altered by human activity or introduced species.
It is important for landowners to recognize Minnesota’s native plant communities when selecting replacement trees for ash.
Ash trees can be found in five native plant communities in Minnesota. These communities are ranked from driest to wettest, based on soil moisture:
Ash is very common in floodplains and wet forests. Ash is found less often in mesic hardwoods, peatlands and fire-dependent forests.
Replacement trees for each native plant community
Replacement trees for ash can be identified by studying the native plant community of the specific woodland.
For each native plant community, there are two categories of recommended tree species:
Expert-recommended trees with proven performance in research trials.
Expert-recommended trees, but not examined in research trials.
Minnesota faced problems with Dutch elm disease in the 1970’s. But, disease-resistant elm trees are a commonly-recommended replacement for ash. Before the Dutch elm disease outbreak in Minnesota, elm and ash trees were found in very similar growing conditions.
Your goals for your land and specific site conditions should be considered when selecting a replacement for ash. Foresters and other natural resource professionals can provide woodland management advice and should be consulted to make appropriate planting and land management decisions.
Floodplain forests are found on floodplains, creek bottoms and riverine terraces. These forests are flat and follow a river’s gradient. The soils in a floodplain are developed on river sediment and the surface is often “grooved” with shallow channels and levees.
- Green ash is common in all of Minnesota’s floodplains.
- Black ash is common in northern Minnesota.
- White ash is common in southern Minnesota.
- Silver maple is widespread in the canopy of floodplain forests.
Types of Ash Trees
According to Gardenerdy.com there are over 60 species of ash tree across the globe. The most common that are native to the United States include:
- White ash– This is native to northern and eastern regions of the United States and is one of the most common varieties in America. It is one of the tallest varieties of ash trees as it can grow up to 80 feet. It is also known as the Biltmore ash.
- Green ash– The green ash can grow in a variety of climatic conditions, but it is most commonly found in the northern and eastern regions of the United States. They grow to between 40 and 60 feet and have compound leaves with five to nine leaflets.
- Velvet ash– Native to north and southwestern regions of the United States, this species is also known as Arizona ash or Modesto ash. They are a good choice if you want a variety that will grow fast, and they grow to between 30 and 50 feet.
- Black ash– Growing to between 50 and 55 feet, the black ash is native to Eastern Canada and northeastern regions of the United States. The scientific name for this species is Fraxinus nigra.
- Blue ash-The Fraxinus quadrangulate has this scientific name because of its square trunk. They are usually found in the mid-western area of the United States.
- Oregon ash– These trees are often compared to the maple tree because the leaves spread outward from the trunk. They are native to the Pacific Northwest region of America.
- California ash– As the name suggests, this species is native to California. It is also found in Arizona, Utah, and Nevada. This is one of the smaller varieties of ash trees as they grow to around 20 feet.
- Carolina ash– This species is also known by many other names, including pop ash, Florida ash, and swamp ash. They grow to approximately 40 feet and each leaf has between 5ive and seven leaflets.
- Gregg’s ash– Native to New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas, this tree is scientifically called Fraxinus greggii. It is more like a large shrub than a tree as it grows to a height of between 10 and 20 feet.
- Pumpkin ash– This tree gets its name from its trunk because the base of the trunk swells in the shape of a pumpkin when it gets wet. It is native to northern and eastern parts of the United States and grows to a height of between 80 and 100 feet. Therefore, it is one of the tallest ash tree species.
Other common varieties that are not native to the United States but can grow in this country include:
- European ash– The scientific name of the European ash is Fraxinus excelsior. Although they are native to Scandinavia, they now grow in most parts of Europe and in southwestern Asia. These are a taller species of ash tree and can grow up to 70 feet.
- Manna Ash– These trees are most commonly found in southwestern Asia and Europe. They are a medium variety of ash that can grow to 50 feet. The flowers of the manna ash are white and not purple like most other varieties. The sap of this tree is sweet and is extracted for medicinal purposes.
- Narrow-leaf ash– The native regions of the narrow-leaf ash are south and central Europe, northwest Africa, and southwest Asia. They generally grow between 60 and 80 feet, although this depends on climatic and soil conditions. This variety is also known as the desert ash, Raywood ash, or claret ash.
Identifying an Ash Tree
If you move home and there are trees in the garden that you did not plant, you may not know which variety of trees you have in the garden. It is important to know the types of trees you are growing so that you can care for your trees properly. Here are some tips for identifying an ash tree:
- Buds– One of the key identifying features of an ash tree is its buds. The buds grow in groups of three. There is a larger bud at the tip of the shoot and an opposite pair of smaller buds a little further back. The buds are a sooty-gray color.
- Leaves – Each leaflet usually contains three to six pairs of light-green-oval leaves with a long tip. There is an extra leaflet at the end, which is called the terminal leaflet. An unusual feature of ash leaves is that they fall while they are still green, rather than waiting to turn brown.
- Flowers– Usually, male and female flowers grow on different trees, but some ash trees have both male and female flowers on separate branches. The tiny purple flowers grow in spiked clusters grow on the tips of the twigs.
- Bark– A young ash tree has a smooth silvery-gray bark. As the tree becomes older, the bark lightens to a beige-gray. Older trees have more pronounces fissures along the bark. Lichens sometimes grow on the bark of an ash tree, and this covers the natural color of the bark.
The Woodland Trust says that ash trees are sometimes mistaken for Rowan or elder trees. The differentiating features are that elder trees have fewer leaflets, while the leaves of rowan trees are serrated.
3 Ways to Propagate an Ash Tree
The ash tree is a familiar plant, very popular with landscape gardeners who wish to have a large tree in the background of their garden, and also popular with residential estate designers and park planners.
As ash trees are so popular and abundant, it is not difficult for people to propagate their own seedlings, and this can be done in a number of ways, from the simplest, using ash tree seeds, to grow plants, to planting cuttings, and even using root grafts.
1. Propagating an Ash Tree from Seed
This is the most common way to propagate the ash tree. In fact, it is rarely necessary to propagate the tree at all, as it is self-propagating. However, it does require some care, as ash tree seeds are not always quick to germinate they may lie dormant for many years after descending from the tree.
Other problems with using ash tree seeds for propagation is the tendency of the ash seeds to become unviable. This is due either to a lack of fertilization, or through the actions of a larvae. This pest eats the "egg" of the seed, meaning that it is just an empty shell with no capacity for germination.
The first thing to do when attempting to propagate an ash tree using seeds is to gather them from under the ash tree. When you have a suitable amount (more than a handful or two), take them back to your house, and "float" them. Ash tree seeds that float on the surface have no ova inside, and should be discarded as unviable. The ash tree seeds that sink to the bottom can now be used to grow ash plants.
As ash tree plants have a long germination period, it is important to speed up this process by stratifying them. This replicates winter-summer-winter cycles, and hastens the production of hormones that encourage germination. Place your ash tree seeds in a plastic bag, and cover with peat moss to replicate soil. Keep them in a warm room for a few days, and then place the plastic bag in the fridge. This should be left there between four weeks and three months. Take the seeds out of the fridge, and place in a warmer area, such as a linen closet. Repeat until signs of germination are visible.
2. Transplanting Sucker Branches
In older ash trees, it is common to find "sucker" branches growing up from the roots or lower trunk. Gardeners usually trim these off during pruning season, but they can be used to grow new ash trees. The best time for picking these is during the summer, between June and August. Take a newly grown sucker, and plant in a well drained pot with soil and mulch. It is possible to add a rooting hormone to encourage growth.
3. Make a Graft
This requires an ash tree root and a cutting or sucker. Cut the root so that a piece of bark peels away, insert the cutting, and wrap both with tree paper. Plant the root in soil up to the cut mark, and grow.
White Ash Tree Facts
The white ash tree is a deciduous member of the ash family. You may find it in hardwood forests throughout America, from the border with Canada through to Florida and as far to the west as Texas.
About the White Ash Tree
The white ash tree can reach up to 100 feet in height, although it is most common for them to reach about 80 feet. They have a width, or "spread," of 40 to 60 feet.
The white ash tree is known for its hardiness and adaptability: As well as in hardwood forests, you can find it at the bottom of mountains and on low hills or parkland. It can also survive along wetlands. However, trees in dense woodlands may struggle as they grow older because the white ash tree is not fond of shady areas.
The tree tolerates a full range of soil types. It is also thought to be relatively drought tolerant, although severe periods of drought do affect it. (The tree prefers a moist soil.)
The white ash tree grows in a pyramid shape, with a gray-brown trunk that can be around two feet in diameter on the tallest trees.
Ash leaves are compound, being formed of between five and nine leaflets, which are the shape of elongated ovals. Leaf tops are dark green with a white-yellow underneath, which is usually hairy. These leaves turn red and yellow in the autumn.
Flower appearances differs between the sexes. Male flowers grow in small, dense bunches that contain at least two stamens but completely lack petals. Female flowers are much longer, multi-flowered groups which share a single pistil between them. Female flowers appear once every 2 to 3 years.
The fruit or seed of the white ash tree is a flat, brownish seed contained in a "wing" or samara, which enables the seed to travel further from the parent plant. Brown seeds need to be left to germinate for 1 or 2 years, in a staggered system which ensures that not too many ash trees grow in one year. Fruit grow in clusters before dropping to the ground and dispersing. Quail, turkey and songbirds may also eat the fruit.
You can distinguish the white ash tree from many of the other ash types by the leaf scar which remains on twigs after growth. The scar on the white ash is broad and has been described as a grin.
The white ash tree has many uses, due to its strength and flexibility. The wood has been used to make prosthetic limbs, baseball bats and cheap furniture. It may also be used as a laminate, or for snowshoes and tennis rackets. Some also prefer the ash tree to any other kind for use on stoves and barbecues because it can be burned as both green and dry lumber.
Information about White Ash Trees
Widely used for landscaping, the white ash tree is said to be the largest ash tree species found in North America. Here are some facts about this tree.
Widely used for landscaping, the white ash tree is said to be the largest ash tree species found in North America. Here are some facts about this tree.
One of the popular ornamental trees with a spectacular yellow-red autumn foliage, the white ash tree is highly valued for its tough wood. The name of this tree is derived from its leaves, that have a dusty underside, which is lighter in color. Native to North America, these long-lived trees are commonly found in the middle and eastern United States. It is also found in certain parts of Canada and neighboring regions.
- As mentioned above, the tree has leaves with a dusty and lighter underside, and this is one of its distinguishing factors. In fact, the name ‘white ash’ is derived from the leaves of this tree.
- Another feature that helps in identifying a white ash tree is its flaky bark, which is grayish-brown in color. The ridges on the bark form a diamond-shaped pattern.
- It may be difficult to distinguish a white ash tree from a green ash tree. In green ash trees, both sides of the leaves are almost similar in color, and the bark is more smooth.
- White ash tree (Fraxinus americana) is also known by many other names, like American ash, Biltmore ash, Biltmore white ash, cane ash, etc.
- White ash trees can grow big, and reach a height of around 60 to 100 feet. Mature trees have a round crown, and are said to be the largest of ash trees in North America.
- Even the trunks of old white ash trees have a diameter of around six feet.
- The leaves are pinnately compound with 5 to 9 leaflets. Some leaves may also have 7 to 12 leaflets with an oval shape.
- One of the distinguishing features that helps in white ash tree identification is the presence of opposite branches.
- The autumn foliage of this tree is yellowish-red in color. As the leaves fall in autumn, the twigs develop a semicircular scar on them.
- Clusters of small white flowers develop on the twigs during the spring, along with the new leaves, or before the emergence of leaves. The fruits are light green in color, but changes to brownish samaras (winged fruits).
Uses of White Ash Tree
Apart from its ornamental uses, the white ash tree is highly valued for its wood, that is tough and strong. It is said that, it requires a very high pressure to break this wood, which is dense with straight grains. Another advantage of this wood is that, it can be bend easily without breaking, and is light too. This tree has white wood that is used for making furniture as well as flooring. White ash tree wood is highly in demand for making sports equipment, like baseball bats, tennis racquets, hockey sticks, etc. Even tool handles are made out of this wood. Earlier, this wood was very popular for making ceiling fan blades, but nowadays, you may not find such fans. The wood is also used for making lobster traps and longbows. It is also getting increasingly popular as solid body electric guitar wood. White ash trees are also valued as a homeopathic remedy for enlarged uterus, hot flashes, and foot cramps.
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In short, white ash trees are hardy, and are found to be somewhat free of diseases. They need moist, but well drained and fertile soil and full sun for a healthy growth. They grow at a fast rate, and if grown for harvesting, it can be done by 11 years.