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The White Ash


Fraxinus Americana, Linn.

The white ash is one of the noblest trees in the American forest, the peer of the loftiest oak or walnut. When young it is slim and graceful, but it grows sturdier as it approaches maturity, lifting stout, spreading branches above a tall, massive trunk. In the forest the head is narrow, but in the open the dome of a white ash is as broad and sym metrical as that of a white oak. A gray rind covers the young branches and the bark is gray. The foliage has white lining and each of the seven leaflets has a short stalk. These are all characters that distinguish the white ash from other species and enable one to name it at a glance. In the South the white ash is undersized and the wood is of poor quality. In the Northeastern and Central states it is one of the most important and largest of our timber trees, with wood more valuable than any other ash. Its uses are manifold: it is staple in the manufacture of agricultural implements, carriages, furniture, and in the interior finish of buildings. Tool handles and oars are made of white ash and it is superior as fuel. The reddish brown heart-wood, with paler sap-wood, is tough, elastic, hard, and heavy. It is not durable in soil and becomes brittle with age.

Ash trees are late in coming into leaf. When all the forest is green and full of blossoms, the ash trees are still naked. Not until May do the rusty yellow winter buds of the white ash swell and throw out on separate trees their staminate and pistillate flower clusters from the axils of last year's foliage. (See illustration, page 214.) Then the leaves unfold; downy at first, becoming bright and shiny above, but always with pale linings. On fertile trees the inconspicuous flowers mature into pointed fruits, one to two inches long. The wing is twice the length of the seed and is rounded to a blunt point. The seed itself is round and pointed, on branching stalks that form clusters from six to eight inches long.

As a street tree the white ash deserves much more general favor in cities than it has yet achieved, for it is straight and symmetrical, and its light foliage grows in irregular, wavy masses, through which some sunlight can always sift and let grass grow under the tree. This tree is a rapid grower, perfectly hardy in most sections of the country, and has no serious insect enemies. The foliage turns to brownish purple and yellow in the autumn.

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