Green Ash vs. White Ash: What Are The Differences?

Written by Heather Hall
Published: October 27, 2022
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White ash and green ash are pretty tricky to tell apart. With practice, though, you can learn to differentiate between the two trees. They are both severely threatened by the emerald ash borer, a beautiful beetle that was accidentally brought to North America from Asia. Both white ash and green ashes are medium-sized deciduous trees and members of the scientific family called Fraxinus. However, there are several differences; leaf color in summer and fall, naturalization location, common name, and uses. So let’s discover everything you need to know about green ash vs. white ash!

Comparing Green Ash vs. White Ash

CharacteristicGreen AshWhite Ash
Scientific NameFraxinus pennsylvanicaFraxinus americana
Common NamesDowny ash, swamp ash, water ashBiltmore ash, Biltmore white ash, cane ash
Native RegionEastern and central North America. Europe from Spain to RussiaEastern North America and Hawaii
Leaf Color Leaves green on both the upper and underside, turning golden in the fall. Leaves green, the underside of the leaf is lighter than the upper, turning yellow or red in fall.
Leaf ShapeLeaves are 6-12″ long. opposite leaves with 5-9 leaflets. The leaflets are pointed at the tip with a tapered base.Leaves are 8-12″ long. opposite leaves with 7 leaflets. Leaves are widest near the base and pointy at the tip.
SizeGrows 35-65 feet high. Trunk up to 24 inches in diameter. Spreads to 40 feet wide.Grows 65-100 feet high. Trunk up to 36 inches in diameter. Spreads to 60-90 feet wide.
Preferred Growing SiteMoist areas such as swamps, bogs, disturbed urban areas, and riparian areas where a water body meets land.Undisturbed forests near sugar maple trees, but is adaptable to other sites
UsesOrnamental, food for frogs, rarely timberTimber, baseball bats, tool handles, furniture, flooring, guitar bodies, shade tree. Home for birds. Food for rabbits, beavers and porcupines

The 4 Key Differences Between Green Ash and White Ash

white ash tree
White ash are larger and broader than green ash trees.

©Smileus/Shutterstock.com

The main differences between green ash and white ash are their preferred naturalization sites. Green ash enjoys a wet area, and white ash thrives in a medium-moist site. However, both trees are adaptable; you will often see them growing in the same forest or urban area.

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White ash and green ash also have slight differences in leaf shape, color, size, and the way humans use their wood. We will break down these differences in more detail now.

Green Ash vs. White Ash: Name

The scientific name for green ash is Fraxinus pennsylvanica. The common names for green ash are downy ash, swamp ash, and water ash. Memorizing these common names is an excellent way to remember that green ash is the ash that prefers a moist location.

The scientific name for white ash is Fraxinus Americana. The common names for green ash are Biltmore ash, cane ash, and Biltmore white ash.

Green Ash vs. White Ash: Size

White Ash, Color Image, Environment, Environmental Conservation, Forest
White ash are huge trees that can reach 100 feet tall.

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Both green ash and white ash are medium-sized deciduous trees. But they are not precisely the same size; white ash tends to be taller and broader than green ash. Green ash grows between 35 and 65 feet in height and spreads to 40 feet wide. The trunk of green ash can grow to 24 inches in diameter.

White ash grows between 65 and 100 feet tall with a width of the same size. The trunk of white ash can grow to 36 inches in diameter. Some states have recorded white ash trees as tall as 120 feet.

Green Ash vs. White Ash: Description

Autumn Leaf Color, Blue, Branch - Plant Part, Color Image, Green Ash
Green ash trees have leaves that are equal in color

©iStock.com/Ethan R.

Many differences between white ash and green ash can only be detected if you can examine the two trees side by side. For instance, the leaves of the white ash are attached by a longer petiole than the green ash. On green ash, when a leaf falls off, it leaves a scar that is straight across, while white ash has a U-shaped leaf scar. The bark of the green ash is flakier and has more horizontal cracks than the white ash, which has primarily vertical fissures.

Green ash trees have green leaves that are equal in color on both top and bottom and turn golden in the fall. White ash trees have green leaves that are dark green on top and light green on the bottom; they turn yellow or red in the fall. White ash trees also have a stem that flakes or peels along the outer edges, while green ashes do not.

Green Ash vs. White Ash: Uses

Ash Tree, Plant Bark, Green Ash, Leaf, Forest
Green ash trees are mainly used for ornamental purposes.

©iStock.com/bestofgreenscreen

Artisans use many types of ashwood interchangeably. But white ash is most commonly used for baseball bats, cabinetry, tool handles, furniture, flooring, and making guitars. White ash is prized for its strong wood and is the preferred choice for hardwood uses.

We use green ash most commonly for ornamental purposes. It is adaptable to many urban environments and can handle disturbed earth and wet areas better than white ash. People also use green ash for furniture, cabinetry, and guitar-making purposes, but it measures lower than white ash in hardness, strength, and toughness.

Both white ash and green ash are favorite nesting places for birds, squirrels, and chipmunks. They are also a favorite food of frogs because of their low tannin levels. Both green and white ash trees feed rabbits, porcupines, and beavers and are an essential part of the ecosystem.

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white ash tree
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About the Author

I am a freelance writer with 22 years of experience. I live in the Pacific Northwest and am surrounded by nature. When I go for my daily runs I often see herds of elk, deer, and bald eagles. I am owned by two dogs who take me on hikes in the mountains where we see coyotes, black bears, and wild turkeys.

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Sources
  1. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fraxinus_pennsylvanica
  2. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fraxinus_americana