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Home > Resources > North Carolina Trees > White Ash

White Ash

(Fraxinus americana L.)

  White ash is found throughout the state except in the lower coastal areas. It grows best in the rich moist soils of mountains coves and river bottomlands. In the east, it grows with swamp chestnut, willow, cherrybark oak, loblolly pine and sweetgum. In the west, it grows with yellow poplar, black cherry, basswood, oaks and extends into the beech -birch-maple forests at elevations of 4,000 to 5,000 feet.

The leaves are 8 to 12 inches long, opposite, with five to nine (usually seven) oblong leaflets, 3 to 5 inches long, that have smooth or finely toothed margins. Upper surfaces of leaves are dark green and smooth; undersides are pale light green to whitish. White ash twigs are stout, somewhat flattened at the point of leaf origin. The leaf scars are broadly crescent shaped to semi-oval, with a distinct notch in the upper margin that contains the leaf bud. The dioecious flowers (male flowers occurring on one tree, female flowers on another) grow in compact panicles. They open before the leaves in the late spring. The fruit is 1 to 2 inches long and grows in crowded clusters 6 to 8 inches long.

The tree may grow to 120 feet but commonly is 70 to 80 feet tall, with trunk diameters averaging 2 to 3 feet. The ashy gray to brown bark is deeply divided by narrow ridges into net-like patterns.

The wood of the white ash is extremely valuable because of its toughness, elasticity and aesthetically pleasing grain. It is preferred to all other native woods for small tool handles, agricultural tools and athletic equipment such as baseball bats and oars. It also is used extensively for furniture and interior finish.
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