White ash (Fraxinus americana), also called Biltmore ash or Biltmore white ash, is the most common and useful native ash but is never a dominant species in the forest. It grows best on rich, moist, well-drained soils to medium size. Because white ash wood is tough, strong, and highly resistant to shock, it is particularly sought for handles, oars, and baseball bats. The winged seeds provide food for many kinds of birds.
THE TREE: The tree can reach heights of 80 ft (24 m) with straight boles. The bark is grayish-brown, rather thick on mature trees; narrow ridges are separated with marked regularities by deep, diamond-shaped fissures. The leaf is 8 to 10 inches in length consisting of 5 to 9 (usually 7) plainly stalked, sharp pointed leaflets. The leaflets are 3 to 5 inches long, smooth to rounded tooth along margin; dark green and smooth above, pale green or whitish beneath.
WOOD CHARACTERISTICS: The sapwood of ash is light brown, while the heartwood is brown to grayish brown. White ash and Oregon ash have lighter heartwood than do the other commercial species. The width of the sapwood is 3 to 6 inches (8 to 15 cm). It is ring porous, with the latewood being composed of parenchyma which surrounds and unites the latewood pores in tangential bands. The wood has no characteristic odor or taste.
The wood of white ash is economically important due to its strength, hardness, weight, and shock resistance. It is second only to hickory (Carya spp.) for use in the production of tool handles. Nearly all wooden baseball bats are made from white ash. The wood is also used in furniture, antique vehicle parts, railroad cars and ties, canoe paddles, snowshoes, boats, doors, and cabinets.
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: White ash inhabits eastern North America. It occurs from Nova Scotia west to eastern Minnesota and south to Texas and northern Florida. It is cultivated in Hawaii.