Arizona Ash is a fantastic desert shade tree and has an enjoyable shape and a (relatively) cool shade in summer. However, it grows to become a large tree. If you have an aversion to picking leaves in the fall, it might not be the best tree for you. The male and female flowers are on different trees. The male flowers drop in the spring in large quantities, that can be composted rapidly. The female drops large quantities of one-winged seeds (samara), providing you with a continuous source of seedlings.
Scientific name: Fraxinus velutina
Alternate name: Velvet Ash
Family: Oleaceae, Olive Family
Description: A fast-growing perennial deciduous shade tree native to Arizona & parts of Southwestern New Mexico. The “velvet” is a gray fuzz that covers the young twigs and leaves. Young trees are pyramidal, but the shape becomes more rounded and open as mature height is reached. This is an especially useful shade tree where summers are long, hot, and dry, and where soils are alkaline. It is the species (with its varieties) used most in desert areas, commonly planted as a shade & street tree. However, it is currently considered to be overplanted in New Mexico.
Preferred Habitat: Riparian – river galleries – widely planted ornamental
Climate-readiness: Climate-ready in parts of New Mexico (USDA Zones 7-8)
Leaves: consists of 3-5 narrowly oval leaflets, each about 3 inches long. Foliage turns yellow in autumn.
Flowers: Generally inconspicuous, blooms in springtime in clusters. Male and female flowers on separate trees.
Fruit: Fruits in the form of seeds, that hang in dense clusters, will grow on female only if it is near a male tree
Bark: gray, deeply furrowed into broad, scaly ridges
Elevation: Up to 7000 feet
Frost Tolerance: Hardy to -10° F (-23° C)
Heat Tolerance: Excellent
Sun Exposure: Full sun
Origin: Southwestern USA (Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah) and Northern Mexico
Growth Habits: 30 feet tall or more
Watering Needs: Moderate water
Pests: The Emerald Ash Borer is a potential pest of the Arizona Ash. Although the Emerald Ash Borer has not yet entered into New Mexico, it has been identified at the New Mexico/Colorado border. It is a potential pest because the Arizona Ash is from the Oleaceae and not the Fraxinus family (like most Ashes are.)