Wafer-ash is a small, native tree or large shrub that produces small fragrant flowers and wafer-like winged seeds, similar to elms. It is a good plant for naturalizing or woodland landscapes. Despite the name, this tree is not a true ash tree and is unaffected by the emerald ash borer.
This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.
All common names:
Tree or Plant Type:
- Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
- Chicago area,
- North America
- Mixed border,
- Small tree (15-25 feet),
- Compact tree (10-15 feet),
- Large shrub (more than 8 feet)
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
- Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily),
- Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
- Zone 4,
- Zone 5 (Chicago),
- Zone 6,
- Zone 7,
- Zone 8,
- Zone 9
- Moist, well-drained soil
- Occasional drought,
- Alkaline soil,
- Clay soil,
- Road salt
Seasons of Interest:
- mid spring,
- late spring,
- early summer,
Flower Color & Fragrance:
Shape or Form:
Size & Form
A small, native rounded tree or large shrub growing 15 to 20 feet high and wide.
Despite the name, this tree is not an ash tree and is unaffected by the emerald ash borer.
Tree & Plant Care
Adaptable to sun or shade and moist soil types, but prefers moist, well-drained soil
Plants have a tendency to sucker.
Disease, pests, and problems
Leaf spots and rust; nothing serious.
Native geographic location and habitat
Grows in rich woodlands, forest edges, and thickets in moist to gravelly places.
Native to Ontario, New York to Florida west into Minnesota.
Bark color and texture
Mature bark is dark brown with raised lenticels. Young plants have a smooth, reddish-brown bark.
Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture
Alternate, compound, trifoliate three leaflets) , 2 to 6 inches long, lustrous dark green leaves changing to yellow fall color.
Petioles are as long as the leaflets.
Crushed leaves have a pleasant aromatic scent.
Flower arrangement, shape, and size
Small, 2 to 3 inches clusters (corymbs) yellow-green fragrant flowers.
May into June. Not particularly showy.
Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions
Light brown circular samaras (winged papery seeds) at the tips of branches in late summer, persisting into winter.