Bogs and Acidic Peatlands of Southern New England by Marsha C. Salett
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.
Northern White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis)
Larch (Larix laricina)
Black Spruce (Picea mariana)
Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis)
Red Maple (Acer rubrum)
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