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Fraxinus nigra locations in the Northeastern United States
Black ash (Fraxinus nigra), a slow-growing tree of northern swampy woodlands, is the only ash native to Newfoundland. Other common names, swamp ash, basket ash, brown ash, hoop ash, and water ash, indicate some of its characteristics and uses. Many aspects of this tree are unknown because it has never been commercially important. Black ash wood, easily split, has been much used for baskets. The seeds are an important food to game birds, songbirds, and small animals, and the twigs and leaves provide browse for deer and moose.
Black ash ranges from western Newfoundland west to southeastern Manitoba and eastern North Dakota; south to Iowa; east to southern Indiana, Ohio, and West Virginia; and north from northern Virginia to Delaware and New Jersey.
Black ash grows in a humid climate. Average annual precipitation ranges from 510 to 1140 mm (20 to 45 in), 380 to 640 mm (15 to 25 in) of which occurs during the warm season. Average January and July temperatures are from -18° to 0° C (0° to 32° F) and 18° to 21° C (65° to 70° F), respectively. Annual snowfall ranges from 76 to 254 cm (30 to 100 in), and the average frost-free season is from 80 to 180 days.
Black ash typically grows in bogs, along streams, or in poorly drained areas that often are seasonally flooded. It is most common on peat and muck soils but also grows on fine sands underlain by sandy till or on sands and loams underlain by lake-washed clayey till (5,9). Although this species can tolerate semistagnant conditions, for best growth it is important that the water be moving so the soil will be aerated even though saturated. Soils suitable for black ash are common in Canada and the northern States. In Indiana, such soils are most common in glaciated areas and in the White River Valley (4) but in Pennsylvania, they most frequently occur south of the glaciated areas. These soils are most commonly found in the orders Histosols and Entisols. Black ash is tolerant of a wide range of pH conditions, from 4.4 to 8.2 (7).
In the northern part of its range, black ash is found from sea level to the highest elevations. In the southern part of its range, however, it grows only above 610 m (2,000 ft) in elevation.
Black ash is an important species of the forest cover type Black Ash-American Elm-Red Maple (Society of American Foresters Type 39). It is a common associate of Northern White-Cedar (Type 37) and a minor associate of Balsam Fir (Type 5), Black Spruce (Type 12), Hemlock-Yellow Birch (Type 24), and Tamarack (Type 38) (5).
Shrubs most commonly associated with black ash are speckled alder (Alnus rugosa), redosier dogwood (Cornus stolonifera), bog-laurel (Kalmia polifolia), labrador-tea (Ledum groenlandicum), poison-sumac (Toxicodendron vernix), willows (Salix spp.), low sweet blueberry (Vaccinum angustifolium), highbush blueberry (V. corymbosum), small cranberry (V. oxycoccus), and common winterberry (Ilex verticillata) (4,5).