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Publication #FOR 256

Fraxinus caroliniana, Pop Ash1

Michael G. Andreu, Melissa H. Friedman, Mary McKenzie, Heather V. Quintana, and Robert Northrop2

Family

Oleaceae, olive family.

Genus

Fraxinus is the Latin word for the ash tree. It is also the Latin word for a lance or spear made from the wood of the ash.

Species

The species name, caroliniana, refers to the tree's origin in the Carolina region of the eastern United States.

Common Name

pop ash, Carolina ash, water ash

The common name "Carolina ash" refers to its origin in the Carolinas (North and South). The name "water ash" refers to its affinity to wet habitats.

Description

This native deciduous tree is found in the wet soils of swamps, flatwoods, bottomlands, and riverbanks throughout the southeastern United States. It can reach heights of 30 to 50 feet and grows best in partial shade to full sun. The pinnately compound leaves are oppositely arranged and can reach a length of 4 to 10 inches. Each leaf contains 5 to 7 leaflets that are 3 to 5 inches long, are elliptical to broadly lanceolate in shape, and have coarsely serrate margins. Leaves are dark green and glabrous on the topside with a paler and glabrous to slightly hairy underside. The bark is light gray, thin, and scaly, and becomes rough and furrowed with age. While this tree may grow with a single trunk, it is often found with several crooked or leaning trunks. Flowers are 1/8 inch long and bloom in early spring before leaves emerge. The blooms appear in clusters of many yellow (male) and green (female) flowers. Fruits are 1½ to 2 inch long elliptical samaras (winged seeds) that have 1 wing (or occasionally 3). The seed itself is yellow or tan and the fruits ripen between summer and fall.

Figure 1. 

The opposite, pinnately-compound leaves of Fraxinus caroliniana.


Credit:

Mary Keim, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Allergen

The ash genus is known to be a potent allergen, producing a large amount of pollen.

Applications

Commercial/Practical

The wood of pop ash is light and weak. This, in combination with its small stature and multi-trunked growth habit, make it an undesirable tree for lumber. However, it has been used as fuel wood or collected and sent to local mills for pulpwood.

Cultural

The native American Miccosukee tribe of Florida used the stems of pop ash to make tools for grinding and pounding, and also used it as firewood. In addition, they found that the light wood of pop ash made excellent bows and arrows.

Horticultural

Pop ash has several redeeming characteristics that make it an interesting, attractive, and useful landscape tree. Its small to medium size, wide spreading crown, crooked and multi-stemmed trunk, glossy and compound leaves, and fast growth rates make it a decorative addition to landscapes. However, since it is deciduous it may not be an optimal tree to plant close to the house if shade is preferred year round. Since pop ash naturally grows in hydric ecosystems, it is best to plant this tree where adequate water is available.

Medicinal

Pop ash bark was used by the Miccosukee for what Austin (2004) calls "women's medicine."

Wildlife

Eastern tiger swallowtail butterflies (Papilio polyxenes) use ash trees as a host for their larvae.

References

Austin, D. F. 2004. Florida ethnobotany. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Borror, D. J. 1988. Dictionary of root words and combining forms (1st ed.). Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Company.

Godfrey, R. K. 1988. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of Northern Florida and adjacent Georgia and Alabama. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press.

Grimm, W. C. 2002. The illustrated book of trees. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books.

Little, E. L. 2005. National Audubon Society field guide to trees, Eastern region. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf.

Nelson, G. 1994. The trees of Florida: A reference and field guide. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press.

Ogren, T. L. 2000. Allergy-free gardening: The revolutionary guide to healthy landscaping. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press.

Osorio, R. 2001. A gardener's guide to Florida's native plants. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida.

Kurz, H., and R. K. Godfrey. 1993. Trees of Northern Florida. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida.

Footnotes

1.

This document is FOR 256, one of a series of the School of Forest Resources and Conservation, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date June 2010. Reviewed April 2013. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Michael G. Andreu, associate professor of forest systems, School of Forest Resources and Conservation; Melissa H. Friedman, former biological scientist, School of Forest Resources and Conservation, IFAS, University of Florida, Plant City Center; Mary McKenzie, former research assistant, School of Forest Resources and Conservation; Heather V. Quintana, former research assistant, School of Forest Resources and Conservation; and Robert J. Northrop, Extension forester, Hillsborough County Extension


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.