Fraxinus pennsylvanica (red ash, swamp ash, water ash, downy ash)

description: deciduous tree

place of origin: eastern North America

urban habitat: commonly found in floodplain areas, near streams and wetlands, on abandoned building sites, disturbed sites; thrives in full sun and can tolerate both acid and neutral soils, poorly drained and clay soils, atmospheric pollution, and windy conditions.

ecological function: early successional tree, provides shade and heat reduction, food and habitat for wildlife.

history: Although native to eastern North America Fraxinus pennsylvanica is sometimes considered weedy due to its fast growth rate and ability to withstand climatic extremes. It is often planted in rows to act as a windbreak and as an ornamental. It is the most widely distributed of all American ashes and has spread out of its native range to Utah and Colorado. This species, like other ash, is susceptible to ash borer. Many Native American tribes found uses for the tree. Medicinally, its inner bark was used to treat depression and fatigue, and was cooked and eaten as food. Its wood was used as a building material, to make tools, baskets, furniture, and ceremonial objects. It was also burned as fuel. Today, its wood is often used in making guitars, baseball bats, tool handles. It is currently being planted for re-vegetation of former mining areas.