How to Identify an Ash Tree

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Ash trees can be found over much of the United States and Canada. The ash is valued as a landscape tree and for the excellent raw materials that it provides. The identifying characteristics of ash trees are the same, whether you are looking at a white ash (Fraxinus Americana), a black ash (Fraxinus nigra) or a green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica).

  • Look at the bark. Older ash trees have a distinctive diamond configuration on the bark. Look far up the trunk to spot it; the diamond pattern is easier to see up high than at ground level or eye level. The bark of young ash trees may be smooth.

  • Look at the arrangement of the branches. The ash is one of the few trees with opposite branching. Each branch of an ash tree is commonly paired with another branch on the opposite side of the same limb. Note that limbs can be broken off by wind, insect damage and so on, so look carefully to confirm that the limbs and twigs are really growing opposite one another.

  • Look at the leaves. The ash has a compound leaf, with five to nine slender leaflets on each leaf stem. The leaflets grow in pairs opposite one another, with a single leaflet at the tip of each leaf. The edges of the leaves may be toothed or smooth. Any teeth will be relatively fine and not deep or pronounced.

  • Look for seeds in late summer through the fall. The seeds are paddle-shaped and hang down in large clusters

  • Observe the characteristics of the cut wood. Ash splits straight if no knots are present. The split wood’s exposed inner surfaces will be very light, sometimes almost white. Ash has a low moisture content, so it burns nearly as well green and unseasoned as it does when dry.

References

  • "The Trees of North America"; Alan Mitchell; 1987
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