Black Ash

Black Ash

Fraxinus nigra


Black ash is a slender tree, and does not grow to be as tall as white ash. It seldom reaches over 50 feet (16 m) or a diameter of 1 foot (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 becomes 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.


Seed should be collected from the tree if possible. Crops are usually quite heavy and can hang on late into the year.

Throughout September and into October, collect the seed and plant as soon as possible. If the seed is allowed to dry out, it may take two years to germinate.

Plant seeds every 2 inches (5 cm), in rows 6 inches (15 cm) apart, at a depth of 1/4 inch (6 mm).

Wildlife Uses:

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:

It is a good choice for streambank and wetland restoration if the site has full sun. It will not grow in the shade of other trees and is mainly confined to the floodplains 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.

Additional Information:

Black ash is confined to the wet areas of PEI. It seldom reaches a height of over 50 feet with a diameter of one foot. The crown, of slender, mostly upright branches, is narrow and fairly open. It is distinguished from the white ash by its stemless leaflets, dark brown to almost black winter buds, and light grey bark on the twigs.

In the past, black ash was heavily used by Indigenous peoples for basket making and it is still used today for this purpose. 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.

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