13 Species of Ash Trees

Ash Tree Identification, Growing Tips, and Varieties

Green ash tree with gray-brown bark and medium-green leaves

The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

Ash trees are in the Fraxinus genus within the olive (Oleaceae) family of woody plants. They are often used as shade, lawn, and street trees and were once the most-planted urban tree across the United States. You can identify ashes by looking for trees with opposite branching (not many trees do this) and compound leaves formed by clusters of leaflets. Ashes also tend to have distinctive bark that varies by species.

Ashes are dioecious trees, meaning individual trees contain either male or female parts, but not both. Male trees can be chosen if you do not want the messiness of the fruit/seeds. The fruits on ash trees are samaras, similar to the winged seeds of maples, and they are usually grouped in clusters on the stem. This tree's symbolism has been tied to folklore and ancient Celtic, Greek, Chinese, and Norse religions as a tree of protection, balance, healing, and rebirth.


The emerald ash borer is a devastating pest that has destroyed millions of ash trees in at least 35 states. The adult beetle (Agrilus planipennis) causes little damage, but when its eggs hatch and larvae feed on the inner tissues of the tree, they disrupt the tree's ability to transport water and nutrients, gradually killing the tree. Existing trees can be treated with insecticides to protect them.

Here are 13 species of ash trees used as shade, lawn, and street trees.

  • 01 of 13

    Black Ash (Fraxinus nigra)

    Black ash

    Doug McGrady / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    The wood structure of black ash makes it an excellent choice for weaving, as it is pliable. This tree can grow well in cold and wet locations. Wildlife will visit this tree since birds and animals eat the seeds. Native to eastern Canada and the northeastern United States, deer and moose also like to chew on the branches and leaves. The thick gray bark becomes fissured and scaly as the tree ages. This ash species has seven to 13 leaflets per compound leaf group, and the foliage turns yellow in the fall.


    This is one of the species of ash most devastated by emerald ash borer; experts no longer recommend planting it.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 6
    • Mature Size: 50 to 80 feet
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-draining, sandy, loamy; acidic to slightly alkaline
  • 02 of 13

    Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica)

    Green ash tree branches with medium-green leaves

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

    Green ash is one of the most common ashes found in eastern and northern North America and is another species severely impacted by emerald ash borer. It can grow in various soil conditions and is especially forgiving of conditions like pollution and salt in urban areas. Other common names include red ash, swamp ash, and water ash.

    The gray-brown bark forms a diamond-like pattern. The medium-green leaves include five to nine leaflets, turning variable shades of yellow in the fall. Green ash is traditionally planted as a shade tree, but it is not recommended in areas with emerald ash borer problems.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 9
    • Mature Size: 50 to 70 feet
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained; acidic to slightly alkaline
  • 03 of 13

    White Ash (Fraxinus americana)

    white ash tree

    jdwfoto / Getty Images

    White ash is another common ash tree in the eastern United States that has been catastrophically affected by emerald ash borer. Also known as Biltmore ash, this is the largest of the native ash trees. It is a pyramidal tree that gradually develops a fully rounded crown as the tree ages.

    Its gray bark has a distinctive pattern of diamond-shaped ridges in older trees. Its leaves are clusters of five to nine leaflets, dark green on top and whitish-green on the undersides. In the fall, its leaves become purplish yellow.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 9
    • Mature Size: 60 to 80 feet
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Rich, loamy, moist, well-draining; acidic to slightly alkaline
  • 04 of 13

    Blue Ash (Fraxinum quadrangulata)

    Blue Ash Tree

    Malerapaso / Getty Images

    Blue ash is named for the inner bark turning blue in the air. This midwestern U.S. native was used to make blue dye. A distinctive characteristic of this species is the square shape of young shoots. In mature trees, the gray bark forms irregular plates. The leaves form clusters of seven to 11 leaflets, turning gray and dull yellow in the fall. This is regarded as one of the best ashes for dry locations, though it also does well in medium-wet sites.

    Traditionally used as a shade tree or street tree, blue ash is reported to have a considerably higher survival rate in areas infested by emerald ash borer, possibly due to some inherent genetic resistance. However, it is not as resistant as some Asian species.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 to 7
    • Mature Size: 50 to 75 feet 
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained, loamy; acidic to alkaline
    Continue to 5 of 13 below.
  • 05 of 13

    California Ash (Fraxinus dipetala)

    California ash- Fraxinus dipetala

    Joe Decruyenaere / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    The California ash, also known as two-petal ash, is a shrub or small tree that is quite different in appearance from many other ashes. It is native to California, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada. The leaves have serrated edges and rounded tips, forming clusters of three to nine leaflets. The white flowers have two petals and hang in fragrant clusters. This is a very good plant for drought since it has very low water needs.

    Emerald ash borer has not yet affected the California ash in its native range. However, there is evidence the beetle has traveled as far west as Colorado and is likely to reach the West Coast.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 7 to 9
    • Mature Size: Up to 20 feet
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained; acidic to alkaline
  • 06 of 13

    Carolina Ash (Fraxinus caroliana)

    Carolina Ash (Fraxinus caroliana)

     Homeredwardprice / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    Carolina ash prefers wet soils and is often found in swampy areas. It is native to North Carolina and South Carolina, in addition to neighboring swampy states. Other common names include Florida ash, swamp ash, water ash, and pop ash. This rare ash tree does well in shady conditions and is perfect for stabilizing wetland areas. The tree has typical leaf clusters of five to seven leaflets. Emerald ash borer thus far is not present in the native range of the Carolina ash, but experts warn that its migration there is possible.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 7 to 9
    • Mature Size: 30 to 40 feet 
    • Light: Full sun to partial
    • Soil Needs: Needs moist soil; adapts to many types; acidic to neutral
  • 07 of 13

    European Ash (Fraxinus excelsior)

    European ash

    Agenturfotograf / Getty Images

    As the name suggests, European ash can be found throughout Europe. It is also known as common ash. Unlike most ashes, this tree is generally wider than tall when mature. Look for black buds as a characteristic to distinguish them from other ashes, which usually have brown buds. The leaves of European ash comprise seven to 13 leaflets. While some cultivars have a yellow color in the fall, the native species tend to drop their leaves while they are still green.

    European ash is reportedly less attractive to emerald ash borer than the black, green, and white ash, but it is still susceptible.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 5 to 8
    • Mature Size: 60 to 80 feet; sometimes taller
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained; loam; acidic to slightly alkaline
  • 08 of 13

    Gregg's Ash (Fraxinus greggii)

    Gregg's ash

    Homer Edward Price / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    Gregg's ash is a large shrub native to desert terrain in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas that can be trained into a small tree. It can be drought-tolerant once established and can be used as a container specimen. This species has smaller leaves than other ash tree species, forming clusters of three to 11 leaflets. The bark is smooth and gray, and the branches are quite thin. Other common names include little leaf ash, Mexican ash, and dogleg ash. This is one of the few ashes that tolerate some shade. Emerald ash borer has not yet affected this tree in its native range but could in the future.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 7 to 10
    • Mature Size: 15 to 20 feet
    • Light: Full sun to partial
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained; neutral to alkaline
    Continue to 9 of 13 below.
  • 09 of 13

    Manna Ash (Fraxinus ornus)

    Manna ash

    Horst Sollinger / Getty Images

    Manna ash is named after the biblical food because of its sweet sap extract; it comes from southern Europe and southwestern Asia. The sugar alcohol mannitol and the sugar mannose can be taken from this sap. This has one of the prettiest flower shows of the ashes, appearing in May; its other common name is flowering ash. The dark-gray bark on this tree remains smooth, even in old trees. The leaves form in bundles of five to nine leaflets, with finely serrated edges, turning yellow-purple in fall.

    Like other ash trees not native to North America, this Asian species may have greater resistance to emerald ash borer, although the precise reason for this is not yet understood.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 6 to 9
    • Mature Size: 40 to 50 feet tall
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Sandy, loamy, clay; moist or dry; mildly acid to neutral to mildly alkaline
  • 10 of 13

    Narrow Leaf Ash (Fraxinus angustifolia)

    Narrow leaf ash tree

    IHervas / Getty Images

    The narrow-leaf ash is a medium- to large-sized tree renowned for doing well in urban settings and acidic soil. It grows natively in Europe, Africa, and Asia and is called desert ash. This tree has smooth, pale-gray bark on young trees that gradually become square-cracked and knobby as the tree grows older.

    The most common cultivar, 'Raywood,' is also known as claret ash, named for the lovely shade of purple in fall. This tree is quite similar to the related Fraxinus excelsior, but the buds on the little leaf ash are pale brown rather than black. The leaves are pretty slender and grouped in three to 13 leaflets.

    This is another non-North American ash that may have greater resistance to damage from emerald ash borers.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 5 to 8
    • Mature Size: 50 to 80 feet
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: All soil types; mildly acid to alkaline soil; dry or moist
  • 11 of 13

    Pumpkin Ash (Fraxinus profunda)

    Pumpkin Ash tree leaves Fraxinus profunda
    Herman Bresser / Getty Images

    The name pumpkin ash is so-named because the base of the trunk becomes engorged and can look like a pumpkin, especially in wet soils. The other common names are swelled butt ash and red ash. This is a thick-bodied tree native to eastern North America with a trunk covered in thick, gray, fissured bark.

    The leaves comprise clusters of seven to nine leaflets that turn bronze to purplish-red in fall. This tree likes moist soil, making it a traditional choice for large rain gardens. It is a very large tree that needs a lot of space.


    This is one of the ash species that has been most devastated by emerald ash borer, and experts now advise against planting it.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 5 to 9
    • Mature Size: 60 to 80 feet, sometimes over 100 feet
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Wet, neutral pH
  • 12 of 13

    Velvet Ash (Fraxinus velutina)

    Velvet ash

    Jon. D. Anderson / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    Velvet ash is drought-tolerant and does well in wet or alkaline soils. It a good choice if you need a tree that grows fast. This tree is native to the southwestern United States and is also called the Arizona or Modesto ash. The gray-brown bark is rough and fissured, and the shoots emerge with a velvety coating. Emerald ash borer has recently become more of an issue for this ash, so planting is not advised in some areas.

    • Native area: Southwestern North America
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 7 to 10
    • Mature Size: 20 to 50 feet
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Wet or moist; alkaline
    Continue to 13 of 13 below.
  • 13 of 13

    Manchurian Ash (Fraxinus mandschurica)

    Closeup of a Manchurian Ash Tree

    skymoon13 / Getty Images

    Manchurian ash is of growing interest as a landscape specimen due to its demonstrated resistance to emerald ash borer. Experiments are underway to cross this species with native North American ashes to develop species that can survive the beetle onslaught. It is a large tree with large compound leaves comprised of up to 11 leaflets that turn an attractive yellow in fall. The smooth gray bark becomes slightly fissured as the tree ages.

    • Native area: Eastern Asia
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 6
    • Mature Size: 40 to 50 feet
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained, acidic to alkaline

More Information About the Emerald Ash Borer

While many communities address the emerald ash borer issue by destroying both diseased and healthy trees to slow the spread of the beetle, some homeowners attempt to save or protect individual trees by treating them with an application of systemic insecticides containing imidacloprid, applied as soil drenches around the base of an ash tree. 

To identify an infestation, look for the following signs:

  • Bark flecking in upper branches (May also be caused by woodpeckers feeding on the insects)
  • Dead branches on top of the tree
  • Bark cracks caused by larvae tunneling under the bark (May notice S-shaped larval tunnels under the bark)

For an insecticide to be effective, drench with insecticides yearly in the spring. Treatment is most effective if it begins before the tree becomes infested. Trees that have experienced canopy loss of 50 percent or more usually cannot be saved.


  • Ash trees need a sunny spot with a lot of space for spread; plant in the fall
  • Needs relatively very little care; most species are drought tolerant
  • Only prune away dead branches; it doesn't require any other pruning
  • Only give fertilizer in the first year; only give if growth isn't already vigorous
  • What is the problem with ash trees?

    The emerald ash borer is the main problem with ash trees. These trees also can be prone to other pests, including ash bark beetles, aphids, and scales. And they can acquire diseases, including ash anthracnose and verticillium wilt.

  • Do ash trees grow fast?

    Ash trees generally have a quick growth rate when they're planted in conditions they like and kept healthy. They typically leaf out in the middle to late spring but hold onto their leaves late into fall.

  • Do ash trees need lots of water?

    Young ash trees should be watered regularly to keep the soil moist as their roots become established. Mature ash trees usually only need watering during prolonged periods of drought and/or in very high temperatures. 

  • What trees are mistaken for ash trees?

    The compound leaves of ash trees are often confused for hickory or walnut trees. You can distinguish hickory and walnut leaflets by their alternating arrangement of leaves along the stem. Some other common differences are ash trees do not have nuts, and they have diamond-patterned furrowed bark.

  • Where do ash trees grow best?

    Because there are many ash tree species, not all conditions are the same; some are swamp trees, while others grow in deserts. The one commonality they all share is an affinity for full sun. Most are adaptable to variable soil types and pH changes.

The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Cultural aspects of trees: Traditions and myths. Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. University of Georgia.

  2. Emerald Ash BorerU.S. Department of Agriculture, 2022.

  3. Emerald Ash Borer. University of Florida.

  4. McCullough, Deborah G et al. Emerald Ash Borer (Coleoptera: Buprestidae) Densities Over A 6-Yr Period On Untreated Trees And Trees Treated With Systemic Insecticides At 1-, 2-, And 3-Yr Intervals In A Central Michigan ForestJournal of Economic Entomology, vol. 112, no. 1, 2018, pp. 201-212. doi:10.1093/jee/toy282

  5. Iverson, Louis, et al. Potential Species Replacements for Black Ash (Fraxinus Nigra) at the Confluence of Two Threats: Emerald Ash Borer and a Changing Climate. Ecosystems, vol. 19, no. 2, 2015, pp. 248–270. doi:10.1007/s10021-015-9929-y

  6. Fraxinus Pennsylvanica. Missouri Botanical Garden.

  7. Fraxinus Americana. Missouri Botanical Garden.

  8. Tanis, Sara R., and Deborah G. Mccullough. Differential Persistence of Blue Ash and White Ash Following Emerald Ash Borer Invasion. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, vol. 42, no. 8, 2012, pp. 1542–1550. doi:10.1139/x2012-103

  9. California Ash. California Native Plant Society.

  10. Hope, Emily S., et al. Canadian Efforts to Slow the Spread of Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire) are Economically EfficientEcological Economics, vol. 188, 2021, 107126. doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2021.107126

  11. Wagner, David L., and Katherine J. Todd. Ecological Impacts of Emerald Ash BorerBiology and Control of Emerald Ash Borer, edited by Roy G. Van Driesche and Richard C. Reardon, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2015, p. 24.

  12. Showalter, David N., et al. Resistance of European Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) Saplings to Larval Feeding by the Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis)Plants, People, Planet, vol. 2, no. 1, 2020, pp. 41-46. doi:10.1002/ppp3.10077

  13. Fraxinus Greggii. University of Arizona.

  14. Flowering Ash (Manna Ash). University of Utah.

  15. Liu, Houping. Under Siege: Ash Management in the Wake of the Emerald Ash BorerJournal of Integrated Pest Management, vol. 9, no. 1, 2018. doi:10.1093/jipm/pmx029

  16. Fraxinus Profunda. Missouri Botanical Garden.

  17. Fraxinus Velutina. Texas A&M University Native Plants Database.

  18. Insecticide Options for Protecting Ash Trees from Emerald Ash Borer. North Central Integrated Pest Management Center.