White Ash – Fraxinus americana

white ash tree

The name White Ash refers to the glaucous, or pale greenish-gray, underside of its leaves. It is often 70’ to 80’ in height, with a 2’ to 3’ trunk. The bark is thick, gray-brown, and has deep, narrow, interlacing ridges that form a somewhat diamond-shaped pattern. The wood is white, dense, strong, and straight-grained. Economically, it is an important timber species, and the wood is valued for everyday uses such as baseball bats, tool handles, furniture, flooring, and paneling. It has also recently become a popular choice for electric guitars.

It is similar in appearance to Green Ash, making identification difficult. The primary distinctions can be noted in leaf coloration (lower sides of White Ash leaves are lighter than upper sides), twigs (the outer surface of White Ash twigs may be flakey or peeling, whereas Green Ash twigs are smoother), and habitat (White Ash is more commonly found in the moist, well-drained soils of upland sites; Green Ash is found in wet forests of floodplains or swamps).

Until the past decade, White Ash was commonly grown as an ornamental because it is attractive, hardy, and relatively free of diseases. In the 1990s, however, the emerald ash borer, a beetle native to Asia, was introduced into the United States, and is proving to be extremely invasive and destructive to the entire genus Fraxinus.