Fraxinus angustifolia Vahl

Narrow-leaved Ash

Broad-crowned deciduous tree to about 10-12 m tall. Bark smooth and grey at first, generally with lichens, becoming fissured into a mosaic of scales. Winter buds dark brown. Leaves mostly in 3s, upper face of stalk grooved. Leaflets 7, rarely 5, 9 or 11, lanceolate to elliptic-lanceolate, mostly 4-7 cm long, 1.5-2 cm wide, stalkless, sharply and jaggedly toothed, the teeth occasionally with a short bristle and generally about the same number as lateral veins, sometimes hairy at the base of the midrib on one side below; yellow or claret in autumn. Flowers in unbranched clusters 5-6 cm long, before the leaves in winter, mostly June. Fruit 3-5 cm long with the seed occupying slightly more than half the length. [Fraxinus rotundifolia Mill.]

S and E Europe, Balkans

Grows naturally in drier areas; in the wild it is variable in the number, size and spacing of the leaflets.

Nomenclatural changes have placed trees known in horticulture as F. oxycarpa first into F. angustifolia and then, by priority, into F. rotundifolia. In 1990 (Taxon 39, proposal 914, p. 296) the name F. angustifolia was conserved against F. rotundifolia (Green 1985,1988a). The subsp. syriaca (Boiss.) P.S. Green [F. syriaca Boiss.], Syrian Ash, from W and C Asia is sometimes listed and supposedly distinguished from subsp. angustifolia by the prominent toothing and mostly 3 leaflets which are thicker and more waxy-grey. It is well adapted to dry conditions around the Mediterranean. Specimens I have examined under this name do not fit this description convincingly and may be placed in the other two subspecies. It is likely that subsp. syriaca is not in cultivation in Australia (with the possible exception of those in Dyson St, Lyneham, ACT, grown from seed collected in Iraq in 1953).

Identical trees are sometimes established for avenue planting by budding from a selected tree onto seedlings; in this way a range of clones that differ slightly in leaflet shape and size may be encountered. Although often reported as adapted to a dry Mediterranean climate, in its natural habitat it occurs on riverbanks, floodplains and in deciduous woods.

The common name, Desert Ash has, in Australia, been generally used for subsp. angustifolia. It is naturalised in the ACT, NSW and Vic (as at Mt Macedon and the Dandenongs).

Leaves mostly in 3s, with the fruit keys in spring; leaflets mostly 7-9, without stalks, the marginal teeth well spaced, jagged, often with bristles, about the same number as lateral veins; flowers and fruits in unbranched clusters (racemes), cf. F. excelsior.

Green (1985), Green (1988a).


subsp. angustifolia, Desert Ash, from W Mediterranean and Portugal has leaflets hairless below. This is a popular street tree in many areas. [F. rotundifolia Mill. subsp. rotundifolia]

 ACT: Griffith (Hayes Crt), Kingston (Giles St). VIC: S Yarra (Kings Domain, several by Edmund Herring Reserve)


subsp. oxycarpa (Willd.) Franco & Rocha Afonso occurs in E C Europe and S Europe from NE Spain eastwards and appears to be available only as the cultivar 'Raywood'. [F. oxycarpa Willd., F. rotundifolia subsp. oxycarpa (Willd.) P.S. Green].


subsp. oxycarpa 'Raywood', Claret Ash. In about 1910, a Mr T.C.Wollaston noticed and purchased a plum-coloured foliage form of Ash (growing among seedlings allegedly Austrian in origin and purportedly containing plants of the N American F. nigra Marsh - although the significance of this is uncertain) from Sewell's Nursery, Aldgate, in the Adelaide Hills. Wollaston owned Ray Nursery which was adjacent to his property 'Raywood', the original plant being raised on this property (which has since been renamed 'Arbury Park'). In 1949 this original tree was 13 m tall and a number of grafts had been made onto F. ornus and several budded onto F. excelsior. Trees grown from cuttings taken from the original Claret Ash remain at the property 'Mt George' near Bridgewater in the Adelaide Hills, where their autumn foliage is outstanding in April and May. The Claret Ash is now widely grown for its stunning autumn foliage in cooler climates around the world, having been available in the British nursery trade since about 1928 and in N America since 1956 (although only widely available there since 1979). The cultivar name is frequently spelled incorrectly as 'Raywoodii'. Unfortunately, trees are prone to a disease known as Ash dieback after about 30 years.

 Generally recognised, even in winter, by the presence of smooth grey bark above the dark, fissured bark of the stock at the base of the tree on to which it is grafted. The leaves are a rich, dark green before turning claret in autumn. Leaflets have a distinctive row of white hairs on one side of the base of the midrib on the lower surface.

 ACT: Turner (Moore St). VIC: Bogong (township); Bright; Dandenongs (R.J.Hamer Arboretum, 1975); Kyneton (Kyneton Botanic Gardens); Melbourne (Fitzroy Gardens,Treasury Gardens); Yackandandah. 

Morley (1976).

Source: Spencer, R. (2002). Oleaceae. In: Spencer, R.. Horticultural Flora of South-eastern Australia. Volume 4. Flowering plants. Dicotyledons. Part 3. The identification of garden and cultivated plants. University of New South Wales Press.

Distribution map
kingdom Plantae
phylum   Tracheophyta
class    Magnoliopsida
superorder     Asteranae
order      Lamiales
family       Oleaceae
genus        Fraxinus L.