Velvet Ash

Fraxinus velutina

Fraxinus veutina pen & ink sketch © by Michael Plagens

Fraxinus veutina photo © by Michael Plagens

Sycamore Creek, Mazatzal Mts, Maricopa Co., Arizona. 11 Aug. 2012.

TREE: A medium sized tree with dark gray, fissured bark.

RANGE: This is strictly a riparian tree and is uncommon below 400 m elevation. Look for the welcome shade of this tree along permanent waterways (water may be subsurface).


FLOWERS: Dioecious: male and female flowers appear on separate trees. No petals. Flowering in spring and sometimes again after summer rains.

FRUIT: Typical winged ash seeds on female trees are up to 3 cm long and ½ cm wide.

LEAVES: Compound leaves are opposite on the stems and margins are barely serrate. Usually there are 5 or 7 leaflets. The petiole and leaves when new have velvety pubescence.

If you check the leaves of many ash trees along the watered canyons of the Sonoran Desert you may eventually find a caterpillar that resembles a bird dropping. One of several that take this disguise, the caterpillar belongs to the Two-tailed Swallowtail, Papilio multicaudata. The butterflies are a common site in watered canyons where they patrol up and down canyon. A resting caterpillar is shown on the lowest leaf in the illustration at left.

Two-tailed Swallowtail

Two-tailed Swallowtail

Oleaceae -- Olive Family

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More Information:

Sonoran Desert Field Guide
Sonoran Desert Places
Sonoran Desert Naturalist Home Page


Copyright Michael J. Plagens, page created 01 May 2009,
updated 22 Jan. 2022.