Black ash is a slender tree, though not as tall as white ash. It seldom reaches over 50 ft. (16 m) or a diameter of 12 in. (30 cm). It has compound leaves with pointed leaflets that turn yellow in the fall. Unlike white ash, it has no stem connecting the leaflet to the main stem. The bark is grey, with shallow fissures and becoming scaly as the tree ages. Buds are opposite and dark brown to almost black. The seeds are ripe in September and can hang on the tree until late fall. The samara (the actual seed plus the wing that it is attached to) is oblong and has a much broader seed cavity than the white ash.
Generally only found along stream banks and the edges of swamps, although it was used for street plantings in some areas. It grows well in open stands of eastern white cedar, red maple and other swamp hardwoods. It does not tolerate shade.
As with white ash, plant seeds every 2 in. (5 cm), in rows 6 in. (15 cm) apart, at a depth of 1/4 in. (6 mm). We have yet to find a good seed source for black ash, so if anyone can help out please contact our office in Charlottetown.
As with the white ash, the seeds are an important food source for red-winged blackbird, evening grosbeak, pine grosbeak, purple finch and other birds. Beavers will often use young ash for food.
Areas of Usage:
In the past, black ash was heavily used by native peoples for basket making and it is still used today for this purpose. It is a good choice for streambank and wetland restoration if the site has full sun.
Black Ash is confined to the wet areas of PEI. Here is seldom reaches a height of over 50 feet with a diameter of one foot. The trunk is slender and usually extends to the top of the tree. The crown, of slender, mostly upright branches, is narrow and fairly open. It will not grow in the shade of other trees and is mainly confined to wet sites along rivers and brooks, and in the margin of swamps. It grows singly in open stands of eastern white cedar and balsam fir or with red maple and other swamp hardwoods. It is distinguished from the white ash but its stemless leaflets, dark brown to almost black winter buds and it’s light grey bark on the twigs. The wood is not as strong or as hard as that of white ash and is therefore used mainly for decorative purposes, such as interior finish, fixtures and cabinet-work. The wood is values for the Indians who separate it into long strips and weave these into baskets.