Ash trees are very popular because they often are easier to find in nurseries than oaks and grow more quickly. There are three different overall varieties of ash trees. Green ash is the tallest of the three, with white ash having more commercial value. Black ash is unusually well-suited to very wet conditions, such as swamps of flood plains.
Green ash can reach 60 feet high with a spread of about 45 feet. It starts out irregularly shaped and becomes more oval as it ages. Green ash grows in USDA Hardiness zones 3 through 9A. In zones 8 and 9 it can grow very quickly, sometimes adding 6 to 10 feet per year with good irrigation. The green ash works well near streets and driveways due to the tendency of the branches to grow upward and away from areas with traffic. Green ash grows best in full sun and in most any type of soil. The glossy green leaves are compound and turn yellow in the fall. Each leaf blade is 2 to 4 inches long.
White ash, sometimes known as American biltmore or cane ash, often is used to make baseball bats, tennis racquets, hockey sticks and other sports equipment because of its resistance to breakage under strain. White ash also bends more easily than other types of wood. In addition to sports equipment, white ash is commonly used in furniture-making. It generally grows to between 70 and 80 feet tall, with some more rare specimens reaching 125 feet. White ash can reach spreads of between 50 and 70 feet. White ash is suitable for hardiness zones 6 and 7. It grows best in full sun and can tolerate most any soil. Its leaves are compound and 2 to 4 inches long. The green leaves turn yellow in the fall.
Black ash is a variety that can reach between 40 feet and 50 feet tall with a spread of 25 to 40 feet. This tree has higher water requirements than other ash trees and grows naturally in swamps and other places with very wet soils. Black ash grows in hardiness zones 2 through 6 and does best with full, direct sun. Black ash is an ideal tree to plant in flood prone areas because of its tolerance for standing water.