Ash trees belong to the genus Fraxinus, and are related to lilac and olive in the family Oleaceae. They are widespread across Europe, Asia, and North America. They have an ashy gray bark with leaves that are opposite and, for the most part, pinnately compound, which turn a vibrant yellow in the fall. 

Ashes are hardy, disease-resistant trees that can tolerate a range of soil conditions. They prefer full sun and are well-adapted to the cold Prairie winters. Ash trees are considered medium to large in size, and most varieties will average 40 to 50 feet in height with an eventual spread of about 25 to 30 feet. They require little maintenance, and make excellent shade and windbreak trees.

Most species in the Fraxinus genus are dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers typically occur on separate plants. In spring, both male and female trees bloom as clusters of fuzzy spikes, before the leaves start to appear. If pollination occurs, the female trees will develop fruits called samaras, which are commonly referred to as ‘keys’ or ‘helicopter seeds’. However, the majority of ash trees sold today are male or seedless varieties, as the large number of seeds generated by female ashes can be a nuisance.


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