The genus Fraxinus consists of 40 or more species of ash around the world with over 14 types in North America. The commercial species in the United States include green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica), white ash (Fraxinus americana), Oregon ash, black ash and pumpkin ash, with green and white ash being the most common.
The native range of green ash includes almost the entire eastern two-thirds of the United States and Canada, extending from Nova Scotia to Alberta, south to the Gulf Coast. The range of white ash mirrors that of green ash, except that it cannot tolerate the dry shortgrass prairies or the wetter areas found along the Mississippi River and Lower Atlantic Coast. Some of the larger green ash occurs in the lower Mississippi River Valley, where trees can commonly reach three to four feet in diameter and 85 to 100 feet in height. White ash is a bit smaller in stature than green.
Ash lumber is usually sold as white ash or black ash. The white ash group includes white, green and Oregon ash. The heartwood of the white ash group is brown with creamy to white sapwood.The heartwood of the black ash group is darker brown, and the wood is lighter in weight.The black ash group includes black and pumpkin ash. Ash is heavy, strong, hard and stiff, and it is very shock-resistant, which makes it the referred wood for baseball bats and a favorite for tool handles. The famous Louisville Slugger baseball bat was first turned out of a piece of white ash in 1884 for then-Louisville player Pete Browning. The very next game, Browning batted three for three; word quickly spread about the new bat, and ash became the wood of choice for baseball bats for years to come.
Ash is commonly used as veneer and in cabinets, furniture, flooring, millwork and crates.
Ash is an abundant lumber species and is often priced lower than red and white oak. It has recently become even more readily available and cheaper due to the current economic downturn coupled with the spread of the emerald ash borer, a non-native Asian species of beetle.