A pressed ash leaf

Cottage ash leaf

This summer I noticed some unexpected trees deep in the woods, high on a ridge near the cottage. Compound leaves like these are typical of ashes and walnuts, but I had never seen either in the area. To add to the mystery, they were growing in a swampy depression and I could not not approach for a close look at leaves and bark. Ash seemed more likely, but without a closer look I was flummoxed.

In October, following the same ATV trail with Danny, Marian and Brenna (in the same part of the woods where we found the delicious comb tooth fungus) I noticed the trees again and pointed them out. Not five minutes later we came upon a tall, spindly sapling, which had bent right over to the ground. Before Marian attempted to upright it, I picked a leaf and tucked it in my notebook. Just yesterday I came across it, nicely pressed.

It is obviously an ash, probably black ash (F. nigra) or possibly the closely related green ash (F. pennsylvanica). It would be near the extreme northern extent of the green ash’s range. Also, I learn that black ash can have up to 13 leaflets per compound leaf, while green ash usually has only 7 to 9. I recall the leaves higher in the tree having more leaflets, which was part of the reason I thought the trees resembled walnuts. Whether black or green, I have never noticed Fraxinus anywhere around cottage country before, so this adds another species to the woody diversity of the area.

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