Fraxinus griffithii

Griffith's ash


Fraxinus griffithii

C.B.Clarke 1882

pronounced: FRAX-in-uss GRIF-ith-ee-eye

(Oleaceae — the olive family)


common names: Griffith's ash, flowering ash

Fraxinus is derived from Latin frango, to break, referring to the ease with which the wood can be split. It is the classical Latin name for the ash (Fraxinus excelsior). Griffithii is named for Dr. William Griffith, (1810–1845), a British doctor and botanist. He was a civil surgeon in Burma, where he studied local plants and made many collecting trips. He explored the Barak River valley in Assam, and travelled the rivers of Burma, including the Irrawadi as far as Rangoon. He visited the Sikkim highlands, and much of the foothills of the Himalayas.

This is one of the few tropical trees in the genus, is a common landscape tree in many parts of Australia, and is a timber tree in Taiwan. It originated in south-east Asia. Although the name ‘ash’ tends to make one think of a European tree, this tree will do well as a shade tree in tropical to mild temperate regions.

It grows between 4 and 7 m tall, depending on soil conditions. If it is grown in a restricted space, it will tend to stay small, which makes it a useful tree for small gardens. Generally it is evergreen, but in cooler climates it will be semi-deciduous.

Left to itself it will usually develop into a pleasing shape and will not need pruning. As the tree ages and grows, gardeners often prune the lower branches in order to place a garden seat in the shade of the tree.

It has mottled green and cream bark, and pinnate leaves with 5 to 7 leaflets that are green on the upper surface and silvery below. The leaves are smaller than the typical ash leaves; the leaflet blades are ovate to lanceolate, with the basal pair usually smaller than the others, and have a leathery feel.

The small, fragrant white bisexual flowers have 4 petals, and are borne in large showy, erect panicles on the outside of the leaves. They are fragrant. The flowers are followed by clusters of small, winged fruits, known as ash keys, that grow to about 4 cm long, and sometimes have a pink tinge when mature.

Although this tree is grown as an ornamental, like most of the Ash family it produces a fairy hard, dense timber. In contact with the ground it has low durability, but it is very suitable for indoor work. Ash wood is used for such articles as bows, tool handles, baseball bats – items requiring high strength and resilience. Most types of Ash have good machining qualities, and glue, nail and screw well. Ash was commonly used for the structural members of early aircraft and carriage-built motor bodies, and Ash veneers are often used in office furniture.


Photographs taken at Picnic Bay 2009, 2010
Page last updated 2nd January 2019