Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 849 Fraxinus angustifolia

Common Names: narrowleaf ash, narrow-leaved ash Family: Oleaceae (olive Family)

narrowleaf ash tree
This is the popular narrowleaf ash cultivar 'Raywood'.


Narrowleaf ash is an elegant, fast-growing deciduous tree to 50-80 ft (15.2-24.4 m) tall with a spread of 30-40 ft (9.1-12.2 m). This is a compact, small-leaved ash with a finer, lacier texture than most members of the genus. All the ashes have opposite, pinnately compound leaves, with the leaflets arranged in opposing pairs on the rachis and an odd leaflet at the end. The leaves of narrowleaf ash are 6-10 in (15.2-25.4 cm) long with 7-13 leaflets, each about 3 in (7.6 cm) long. The leaves are often in whorls of three and the leaflets have no stems. Foliage is dark green, turning yellow or purple in autumn. The horticulturally insignificant flowers appear before the leaves in early spring. The fruits are 1.5 in (3.8 cm) flat papery winged samaras borne in crowded hanging clusters.

Several botanical varieties and subspecies have been described. Var. lentiscifolia has wide spaces between the leaflets and slightly pendulous branches. Var. australis) has slightly hairy leaf undersides. Subsp. oxycarpa is sometimes called "desert ash"; it has leaflets that are pubescent on the bottom. Subsp. syriaca is the most graceful form, with slender leaflets crowded onto leaves that are borne in whorls of 3-4 on long thin branchlets. Several cultivars are available in Europe; some may be hard to find in North America. 'Raywood' (claret ash) is probably a clone of subsp. oxycarpa; it is a strong grower with an open, loose crown and foliage that turns wine-purple in autumn. 'Raywood' may be the only form of narrowleaf ash available in most of North America. 'Elegantissima' is a small cultivar to 20 ft (6.1 m) tall with smaller, pale green leaves. 'Monophyla' is really aberrant: it has simple or lobed leaves. 'Pendula' has slender pendulous branches.


Narrowleaf ash, Fraxinus angustifolia, is native to southern Europe, western Asia and Northern Africa.


Narrowleaf ash does better in acidic soils than most other ash species, but it still does fine in neutral to slightly calcareous soils. This ash grows faster than other species. While young, narrowleaf ash should be kept to a single leader to prevent forked crotches that can cause structural problems later on. Light: Full sun. Moisture: Narrowleaf ash is more tolerant of dry soils than most other ash species, although it still cannot be considered drought tolerant. Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 - 8. Propagation: Sow seeds while still fresh in fall. Cultivars are grafted or budded onto seedlings.


Narrowleaf ash is used as a specimen, shade and street tree. It tolerates coastal conditions, urban and smoke pollution, and strong winds. The foliage of narrowleaf ash has a finer texture than that of white ash (Fraxinus americana), and the tree itself is smaller and more appropriate for the home landscape. 'Raywood' is an attractive smallish shade tree that provides fine fall color. The subspecies syriaca is especially beautiful and fine textured, but is rare and hard to find.

narrowleaf ash
In autumn the leaves of 'Raywood' turn purplish wine colored which inspired the selection's common name claret ash.


The olive family, Oleacea, includes some 900 species of trees and shrubs in two dozen genera. Familiar members of this family are fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus), tea olive(Osmanthus americanus ), jasmine (Jasminum nitidum), glossy privet (Ligustrum lucidum), and the edible olive tree (Olea europaea).

Steve Christman 11/10/00; updated 6/20/04

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Fraxinus species profiled on Floridata:

Fraxinus americana

( white ash )

Fraxinus angustifolia

( narrowleaf ash, narrow-leaved ash )

Fraxinus pennsylvanica

( green ash, red ash, river ash )

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