Modesto Ash Tree

(Other common names: Velvet ash, Arizona ash)
Fraxinus velutina
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Ash Tree
Bark of Ash Tree
Ash Leaf
Ash Seed


Angiosperm, Dicot, deciduous


Height: 30 to 50 feet
Canopy Width: Up to 30 feet
Leaves: 3 to 6 inches long
Fruit: .75 inches long

Identifying Features:

  • It has large compound, willow-like leaves, gracefully drooping branches and large panicles of wing-like fruit in the fall. It grows fast and forms a symetrical, round top, which affords sufficient shade, although some sunlight always finds a way through irregular wavy foliage.
  • Ash trees are deciduous. Deciduous trees shed their leaves before the onset of harsh seson, during which they remain dormant. Leaf fall prevents excessive water loss during drought, or when water is locked up as ice, and minimizes frost damage. The upper surface of the leaves are a glossy green, while the lower surface is soft and velvety. In the fall leaves turn a yellow or attractive gold color.
  • The Modesto Ash has brittle wood and commonly has a lot of dead branches. The bark is usually a light gray or off-white color with a red tinge. The Modesto ash grows upright and is not prone to droopage. It has a medium gray trunk, bark fissured throughout.


Native to North America, the Modesto Ash grows naturally from western Texas to the Owens Lake regions in southern California, where it inhabits the banks of the streams or borders of springs. Here is a map of the distribution of Modesto Ash trees, the shaded regions are the areas in which it inhabits. Click here for a larger version of the map.


  • The flowers of an Ash Tree appears in clusters before the leaves emerge in the spring. Flowers are green but not ornamental. Modesto ash flowers are dioecious, meaning the male and female flowers are on separate plants. The flowers are bisexual or unisexual, the sexes variously distributed and there are usually two stamens. The flowering time is generally between the months of March and April. The male trees drop flowers in large quantities in the spring, while the females drop large quantities of fruit (samara).
ash2_flower1.jpg ash2_flower.jpg
Modesto ash flower close-up | Modesto ash flowers
  • The fruit called samara is winged, usually .5 to 1 inch in length, hanging in dense clusters in the form of seeds. The fruit is covered with a hard green or tan covering and does not attract a large number of wildlife creatures, however, it does produce a significant amount of litter. The fruit will grow on a female plant only if a male plant is nearby.

Water/Sun Requirements:

The Modesto Ash requires full sun exposure, and regular watering.

Special Adaptations:

The ash tree is adapted to fine soil textures, but can grow in most soil conditions including: clay, loam, sand, and acidic, occasionally wet, alkaline and well-drained soils. It is tolerant of smog, heat, wind, and will survive frost. Modesto ash has the great merit of growing well in alkaline soil where hardly any other tree will do, and is particularly well adapted to the arid regions of southern California, as well as the Sacramento and San Joaquin valley

Other Info:

  • The Modesto Ash is very susceptable to pest infestation, especially borers and thus tend to have a short life.
  • Nordic myths tell that man was created from ash wood. Click here for complete Norse mythology
  • Because its calyx (the sepals of a flower considered as a group) remains when in fruit, ash trees are valuable as a source of ornamental and park trees.
  • The original Yule log was created from ash
  • Principle use of ash is for its timber, especially the European Ash. In the past it was used for making spears, staffs, carriages and wagons.
  • Decoctions of the European Ash were once used to cure jaundice and liver pains. A strong extract made from ashes of the wood was used for scabby heads, others were supposed to cure snake bites. The pale yellow juice from Manna Ash acts as a mild laxative and has been given to children (in Italy and Sicily)
  • The fruits of the ash tree were used to make pickles
  • The name Ash is said to be derived from the old Scandinavian word aske, meaning 'human'. However the root-word means 'divine' or 'God', as in Asgard, the home or garden of the Gods in Scandinavian mythology.

Reference Sources/Links:
The Dirt Doctor
Modesto ash flowers
Modesto ash flowers closeup
Nordic Myth
monocots vs dicots
Dicot definition
Hora, Bayard. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Trees of the World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981.

Created by Julie P 2007.