Height: 40 to 60 feet
Lifespan: Pretty short-lived; about 50 years or so.
Fall Foliage: Pale yellow to orange. Sometimes nice, but rarely in the same league with some other maples.
Range: Large portions of the United States, from parts of the coastal plain, through the bulk of the Piedmont, into the Great Plains, and extending into scattered locations even further west.
Typical Habitat: Adaptable and often planted deliberately, but probably most comfortable in lowlands and tolerates pretty damp conditions.
The Ash-Leaf Maple: Helpful, but Also Maybe Illegal
The ash-leaf maple is a really hardy tree, which not only grows quickly and provides great shade, but it also thrives in many locations, including periodically flooded areas. Accordingly, it was commonly planted in the past by land developers and homeowners.
However, the plant’s popularity has faded quite a bit since its peak. This has happened for a variety of reasons, but some of the biggest issues it presents include a very short lifespan, often less-than-gorgeous growth habit, and weak wood.
Accordingly, this tree is actually illegal to plant in some areas, and people are simply discouraged from planting it in many others. Nevertheless, it is still the tree of choice for some damp locations – especially those that don’t see much foot traffic.
Ash-Leaf Maple Identification: Tips & Tricks
The ash-leaf maple gets its name from the compound leaves it bears, which look more like ash leaves than maple leaves at a glance. The apex leaflet does, however, resemble most other maple leaves, so a close look will usually distinguish it from the ashes. If need be, you can also consider the fruit: Maples produce double samaras, while ash trees produce only single samaras.
In truth, the most likely species to be confused with the ash-leaf maple is probably poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans). When young, the leaves of ash-leaf maples often bear only three leaflets, and they can appear remarkably similar to the leaves of poison ivy.
Fortunately, there’s a quick way to distinguish the two: Ash-leaf maple leaves are arranged in opposite or paired fashion along the stem, while poison ivy leaves emerge from the stem in alternating fashion. Just be sure you know how to distinguish leaves from leaflets before using this approach.
The Ash-Leaf Maple: Additional Information
The ash-leaf maple hasn’t been chronicled in the same way that some other, more celebrated trees are. But there’s still tons of great info out there about these trees, including:
- North Carolina State Extension: All of the basic info most readers will want at a glance, including a ton of photos.
- University of Florida, IFAS Extension: A comprehensive resource, complete with lots of images and a range map.
- Minnesota Wildflowers: Lots of info presented in great quick-reference form.