Fraxinus nigra
Black Ash (Fraxinus nigra)
Distribution Map
Shape and Distribution
Black ash grows to a height of 40 to 70 feet and has a trunk diameter of up to two feet. The stout, straight, upright branches form an open, narrow or slightly rounded crown. 

Black ash is present in the northern two thirds of Illinois, where it grows in swamps and bottomlands in cold wet soils. It is most common along streams and in swampy woods where it occurs frequently with American elm.

Interesting Facts
Black ash is a slow growing, commercially unimportant tree. Black ash is also called Hoop or Basket ash because the pounded wood splits along growth rings and the sheets of wood are cut into thin strips for weaving baskets, chair seats, or barrels. 

Over most of its range in eastern North America, the ashes and box-elder are the only native trees with feather-compound leaves. Feather-compound leaves are those in which the midribs of the main leaflets branch from a main, central midrib at several points in a feathered pattern. None of the leaflets of black ash have stalks. The absence of stalks is a distinguishing characteristic of black ash in Illinois. Black ash is the only native ash in Newfoundland.

Identifying Features

Black ash bark is reddish brown to gray (more commonly), irregular and corky with tight shallow fissures. It may also be somewhat scaly or flaky when rubbed. 
The twigs are gray, rounded and hairless. The buds are finely hairy, conical and about 1/4 inch long. They are very dark, bluish-black, and thereby distinguishable from those of either white or green ash. 
The leaves are opposite and pinnately/ feather-compound with 7 to 11 leaflets. The leaflets are not stalked - another distinguishing characteristic that separates black from other ashes. The leaflets are always toothed, lance-shaped and pointed at the tip. They may be rounded and asymmetrical at the base and can be up to 6 inches long. They are dark green and smooth on the upper surface and paler with rusty hairs along the veins underneath.
The flowers can have either both male and female components (stamens and pistils together in one flower), or only male (stamens) or female (pistils) parts on an individual flower. They appear in April before leaf-out as small, elongated clusters of petal-less, purplish flowers. 
The fruits are oblong, winged, and lance-shaped with a single seed at the base. They are up to 1 1/2 inches long and 1/2 inch wide.

Black ash wood is soft and heavy. It is not particularly strong, but it is durable. Baskets, barrels, and woven chair bottoms are made with flattened strips of black ash wood. Black ash is also used to make cabinets, interior finishing, and fence posts. The knotty burls (hard, woody growths on the trunks or branches of trees) are made into veneers and furniture because of their interesting grain patterns.