Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Green Ash - Fraxinus pennsylvanica   Marshall
Members of Oleaceae:
Members of Fraxinus with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Order Scrophulariales » Family Oleaceae
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DistributionThroughout much of the state, but of spotty occurrence in the northern Mountains and in the eastern Coastal Plain. Presumably absent from some counties in the Tidewater zone around Albemarle and Pamlico sounds, as well as in the northwestern part of the state.

This is a wide-ranging species from much of Canada south to central FL and central TX.
AbundanceCommon in the eastern and central Piedmont and in the Coastal Plain except for the eastern counties. Uncommon in the lower Mountains, mainly below 2500 feet elevation; rare to absent in counties bordering Albemarle and Pamlico sounds. Can be infrequent in some Coastal Plain counties that lack brownwater rivers. Sadly, the emerald ash borer strongly attacks this species, and in the northern border counties of the mountains and Piedmont considerable death of trees, or at least death of branches, has been noted since about 2010. Thus, strongly declining now, and the NCNHP moved the State Rank up to S4 (from S5) and added it to its Watch List as W5 -- strongly declining. NatureServe also recently moved the Global Rank from G5 to now G4.
HabitatThis species dominates many or most brownwater river systems in the Coastal Plain, and in many floodplains in the Piedmont. It occurs in both swamps and bottomlands, not only on natural levees but on flats and backswamps. It is much less numerous in blackwater systems, and it only infrequently ranges out of wetlands into adjacent uplands. Thus, it favors rich, circumneutral soil as opposed to more acidic soil.
PhenologyFlowers in April and May; fruits from August to October.
IdentificationThis is a familiar wetland deciduous tree, hard to miss in many bottomlands and swamps; it is a medium tree that averages 75 feet tall. The 7-9 pinnately arranged leaflets are elliptical or lanceolate in shape, and average about 4 inches long. The leaves are quite similar to all other ashes, so care needs to be taken to separate it from others. The other sizable wetland ash – Pumpkin Ash (F. profundal) -- has the leaflets somewhat rounded at the base, as opposed to more acute to tapering in Green Ash; has samaras with larger bodies (looking plumper) than on Green Ash; and often has a more buttressed base to the trunk than does Green Ash. Pumpkin Ash leaves thus tend to show more obvious petioles to the leaflets, as the leaflets are quite squared off to strongly rounded at the bases. Carolina Ash (F. caroliniana) also grows in wetlands, but it usually has multiple trunks and is a small tree; it has flat samaras, but the leaflets and twigs can be quite similar to those of Green Ash. White Ash (F. americana) is mostly an upland tree, and its leaves are usually whitened below; Green Ash leaves are essentially the same medium green below as above.
Taxonomic CommentsMany references have divided the species into varieties that are either glabrous on the stems, petioles, and rachises – var. subintegerrima, versus one that is quite pubescent – the nominate var. pennsylvanica. Thankfully for most people, NatureServe and Weakley (2018) do not split out these varieties. Separating species of ashes in NC can be tricky enough without having additional varieties to deal with!

Other Common Name(s)Red Ash. This is the name typically given to the pubescent variety.
State RankS4
Global RankG4
State StatusW5
US Status
USACE-agcpFACW link
USACE-empFACW link
County Map - click on a county to view source of record.
Photo Gallery
B.A. SorrieMoore Co., Piedmont, Cool Springs Road at tributary of McLendons Creek. 14 May 2016. MoorePhoto_natural
B.A. SorriePiedmont, terrace at edge of Deep River, due E of Glendon. 15 Sept 2020. MoorePhoto_natural
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