The ash trees are hard to distinguish from each other, because many are quite similar in nature. The ashes are attractive trees, with some having large natural distributions across North America. The ashes make fine shade trees, are easy to transplant in most instances and adapt well to an array of soil types, with the pH levels of the soil usually making little difference to the tree's growth.
White ash and green ash have the two largest ranges of the American ashes, with each spread across much of the eastern part of the United States. Other ashes that have large geographic distributions include the fragrant ash, velvet ash, Carolina ash and black ash. The Oregon ash, Gregg ash, singleleaf ash and Texas ash are four of the more localized species.
Ash trees stand out due to their compound leaves, which consist of a long stem with several leaflets attached. The leaflets will vary in number between the species of ashes. Black ash, for example, can have as many as 13 leaflets on one stem, while Carolina ash has a maximum of seven. Leaflet shape can help discern one ash from another. Green and white ash will have lance-shaped leaflets, while types like Texas ash (oval) and Gregg ash (oblong) have rounded shapes. The length of the entire main stem will also help you tell ashes apart. Some may be as long as 18 inches, like pumpkin ash, and others much shorter, like Gregg ash at 3 inches.
One problem you may encounter with ash trees on your lawn is that the female trees tend to drop lots of litter that you must eventually clean. Only the female ash trees produce the paddle-shaped seeds known as samaras, which grow in clusters on the branches and then rain down upon the landscape. The males lack the ability to produce the samaras, making them the preference of landscapers, according to the University of Connecticut. The samaras can also precipitate the growth of numerous seedlings around a mature ash tree that you will have to cut down.
Fall Foliage Color
Ash trees gain even more appeal as fall approaches, with the foliage changing into a number of different hues. White ash is one of the most diverse in terms of its leaf color, as the leaves may change from green to yellow, red, purple and even orange. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources reports that the green ash is among the first species within its range to change color, with the best individuals taking on a yellow-green appearance.
Ash species are medium in size, with few types growing beyond 90 feet and many in the 40- to 60-foot range in terms of their maximum heights. The flowers develop before the leaves emerge on most kinds of ash trees, but they are not showy enough to have much ornamental value. The wood of the white ash has long had use in the making of wooden baseball bats, as it is durable, tough and retains its strength when shaped. Most ashes do well in moist soils, allowing you to plant them in some of the wetter areas of your property.