Bogs and Acidic Peatlands of Southern New England by Marsha C. Salett
Taxonomy
Fraxinus nigra Marsh.
OLEACEAE (Olive Family)
EtymologyFraxinas is the classical Latin for ash tree; nigra is Latin for black.
Synonyms (Common Name)Hoop Ash, Basket Ash, Swamp Ash, Water Ash, Brown Ash
DescriptionThe common ash in swamps and wetlands of New England, Black Ash is a small to medium, broad-leaved deciduous tree. Its thin gray bark is corky and flaky, and breaks up into a powder if rubbed.
Wetland indicator statusFACW
Plant Height60-80 feet
LeavesDeciduous, opposite, pinnately compound leaves 12-16" long; leaflets: 7-11 (always odd number) lanceolate to oblong, always toothed, and unstalked; yellow or brown in autumn; bluish-black buds.
Flower/InflorescenceMale and female flowers are usually on separate trees; inconspicuous, in clusters.
Flowering PeriodApril-May, before leaves appear.
FruitSingle samara (dry, winged fruit), 1 - 1 9/16" long, elliptical and nearly flat, blunt at both ends, wing extends to the base; fruits are clustered in panicles.
Fruiting PeriodJune-September.
HabitatWet woods, margins of swamps, ponds, and fens.
RangeNewfoundland to Manitoba; south to Delaware, Indiana, and Iowa.
Associates
Trees:
Northern White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis)
Larch (Larix laricina)
Black Spruce (Picea mariana)
Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis)
Red Maple (Acer rubrum)
Shrubs:
Speckled Alder (Alnus incana)
Mountain Holly (Nemopanthus mucronatus)
Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)
Similar Species
Green Ash(Fraxinus pennsylvanica) and White Ash (F. americana) have stalked leaflets; black ash has unstalked leaflets.
Poison Sumac (Toxicodendron vernix) is easy to recognize by its red stems; its leaves are alternate, not opposite, and its leaflets are stalked and entire. Also, Poison Sumac has whitish berries on the female plant.
Seasonal Diagnostics
Spring: Twigs have bluish-black buds. Flowers appear in April and May before leaves.
Summer: Compound leaves have an odd number of unstalked leaflets. Fruits are long clusters of elliptical samaras.
Fall: Leaves turn yellow or brown.
Winter: Branching is opposite. Bark is corky and flaky.
(c) 1998-2006 Marsha C. Salett