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Velvet Ash

Fraxinus velutina

Velvet Ash, Fraxinus velutina, pen & Ink © by Michael Plagens

TREE: A medium sized tree with dark gray, often nearly black, fisured 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: Dioeceous: male and female flowers appear on separate trees. No petals.

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

LEAVES: Singly compound leaves are opposite on the stems and margins are barely serrate. 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.

Oleaceae -- Olive Family

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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, 1999-2010