Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Urban Wildlife Watch: Ash Trees

Ash trees, Fraxinus spp. are common hardwood trees in the United States. They are forest trees as well as urban trees planted along streets, in parks and cemeteries.

This tree is one of many of its kind along my street. I also have a very large one in my backyard. The squirrels occupy this tree – as well as my roof. The best I can figure out this is a White Ash Tree. I feel pretty confident about this identification. You’ll notice that the leaves are beginning to turn yellow.
Identifying plants can be challenging, especially in the winter when there are no leaves. The autumn is a great time to identify trees because there are still leaves on trees and you can use the fall colors to help in identifying the species. Check out Dr. Roberts Ash Tree Identification Guide. I learned a lot myself. MAD Horse. Only Maple, Ash, Dogwood, and Horse chestnuts have opposite branches. The branches off of stems shoot out directly across from each other. I also like the Michigan State Ag extension Ash Tree Identification Guide. It is a short and sweet ID Key with several great photos to aid identifying the parts of the tree. It can be printed as duplex, in color, and folder up and put in your back pocket. Go out and see how many Ash trees are a part of your urban forest – along your neighborhood streets, parks, and other green spaces.

The scientific name of the White Ash is Fraxinus americana, but other common names include the American Biltmore or the Cane Ash. This tree is most famous for being the best wood for baseball bats.

Good news – it is a native American tree and very common in American Forests. Seeing them in cities and suburbia are great remnants of our traditional forests. Plus it is a strong and hardy tree species.

The fruit is called samaras. A single seeds is contained within each samara, which you can see as the bump in the picture.
I'll confess that I was quite unfamiliar with this term. I call these types of fruits “helicopter seeds”. Maple tree fruits are another classic example. When the seeds are ready to falls they ‘fly’ into the air spinning like helicopter propellers. Squirrels love these fruits and soon they will drop and fly all over the place. This is how the seeds disperse from their natal area, where they were born or grown, to where they might eventually settle and grow to adulthood.


Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed this post. In fact, I hope you don't mind, I pointed people to it from my website. Thanks for the identification tips.

DNLee said...

thanks for the shout out.

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