Fraxinus americana or white ash is a tree species native to eastern North America most commonly found in temperate hardwood forests as far north as Nova Scotia and as far south as Florida. The normal habitat range stretches as far west as eastern Texas, but isolated populations have been found in western Texas, Wyoming, and Colorado. The white ash gets its name from the pale grey to bluish green appearance of the underside of its leaves which in turn makes it difficult to distinguish from its cousin the green ash.
White ash heartwood is usually light brown in color, however it is possible to find darker shades that are sometimes referred to as “olive ash”. The sapwood of fraxinus americana can be very wide and also tends to be light brown. There is seldom clear distinction between the two. White ash has a medium to coarse texture similar to that of oak and the grain is almost always regular and straight. While naturally a hard, strong wood relative to weight the wood from the white ash is considered to be only slightly durable with regard to decay. For this reason direct contact with soil is avoided and woodworkers find it much more useful for interior purposes such as joinery. Despite its perishable nature white ash is one of the most used trees to for everyday purposes making its cultivation important. The wood produces good results from hand and machine tooling and responds well to steam bending, glue, staining, and finishing. It is a preferred timber for the production of baseball bats and tool handles because it is naturally shock resistant. White ash also finds much use as hardwood flooring and in furniture. If properly worked it is capable of producing a strong longbow as well. Recently, white ash has become a popular choice for solid body electric guitars. Now known as a tone wood with a bright cutting tone and good sustaining quality.
White ash is not currently considered to be endangered but an invasive species known as the Emerald Ash Borer has become a real threat since the 1990′s when it was accidentally introduced from Asia. Threatening up to 7.5 billion ash trees in the United States the Emerald Ash Borer could very well do serious damage to all North American species of ash trees. While the insect prefers the more commonly cultivated green ash the white ash is still in danger. Studies are currently being done in order to gauge the impact of the threat on commerce. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources published a report detailing the possible effect of the emerald ash borer on the economy including the predictably huge cost of dead ash tree removal, most specifically in residential areas, which could reach well into the billions. To give perspective the American chestnut blight was responsible for killing some 3.5 billion trees. There are 3.5 billion ash trees in Ohio alone. With these numbers in mind it is easy to see how costs and damages could stack quickly.