Fraxinus nigra (Black Ash) is a species of Fraxinus (ash) native to much of eastern Canada and the northeastern United States, from western Newfoundland west to southeastern Manitoba, and south to Illinois and northern Virginia.
It is a medium-sized deciduous tree reaching 15–20 m (exceptionally 26 m) tall with a trunk up to 60 cm (exceptionally 160 cm) diameter. The bark is grey, thick and corky even on young trees, becoming scaly and fissured with age. The winter buds are dark brown to blackish, with a velvety texture. The leaves are opposite, pinnate, with 7–13 (most often 9) leaflets; each leaf is 20–45 cm long, the leaflets 7–16 cm long and 2.5–5 cm broad, with a finely toothed margin. The leaflets are sessile, directly attached to the rachis without a petiolule. The flowers are produced in spring shortly before the new leaves, in loose panicles; they are inconspicuous with no petals, and are wind-pollinated. The fruit is a samara 2.5–4.5 cm long comprising a single seed 2 cm long with an elongated apical wing 1.5–2 cm long and 6–8 mm broad.
This wood is used by Native Americans of the North East for making baskets and other devices. The Shakers also made extensive use of the Black Ash for creating baskets. Also called Basket Ash, Brown Ash, Swamp Ash, hoop ash, and water ash. It is also a popular wood for making electric guitars and basses, due to its good resonant qualities.
Creating basket strips
Black ash is unique among all trees in North America in that it does not have fibers connecting the growth rings to each other. This is a useful property for basket makers. By pounding on the wood with a mallet, the weaker spring wood layer is crushed, allowing the tougher and darker summer wood layer to be peeled off in long strips. The long strips are trimmed, cleaned, and used in basket weaving. Indigenous peoples of the Northeastern Woodlands also make bark baskets from black ash, traditionally used for berry-gathering.