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Although perhaps not in cultivation in Britain at the present time, this ash deserves mention as the only American representative of the section Ornus. Leaflets five to nine, lanceolate to ovate, 11⁄2 to 21⁄4 in. long, up to 1 in. wide, acute or acuminately tapered at the apex, glabrous, distinctly stalked. Flowers in glabrous panicles. Petals four, linear, 1⁄2 in. or slightly more long, united at the base into a short tube. It is a shrub or small tree, native to the south-western USA and N. Mexico.
Synonyms: F. macropetala Eastw.
Shrub or small tree to 6(–12) m, 0.2–0.3 m dbh. Branchlets slender and glabrous; buds dark reddish brown. Leaves deciduous, imparipinnate, 18 cm long; leaflets three to nine, ovate to oblanceolate or lanceolate, 3.5–7 cm long, thin and shiny, margins entire to coarsely toothed, apex long-acuminate to cuspidate. Inflorescences paniculate, terminal or axillary on current growth, 7.5–10 cm long. Flowers opening in spring as leaves unfurl; flowers conspicuous; white and fragrant with large petals. Fruit a samara, oblong-obovate to lanceolate. Flowering May to June (USA). Kearney & Peebles 1951, Correll & Johnston 1970. Distribution MEXICO: north; USA: northern Arizona to western Texas. Habitat Steep rocky slopes, ledges and cliffs, often in shaded areas, between 1200 and 2300 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 7. Conservation status Not evaluated. Cross-references B214, K86. Taxonomic note Rehder (1917) recognised var. macropetala (Eastw.) Rehder, which typically has fewer, broader leaflets and only occurs in northern Arizona (incl. Grand Canyon National Park).
Bean (1981a) wrote that Fraxinus cuspidata was perhaps not in cultivation in the British Isles. It is now, but only in a very tenuous way, being absent from all the principal arboreta: TROBI records one specimen of 3 m growing at Peasmarsh Place, East Sussex, derived from a Keith Rushforth collection in Mexico. It has previously reached flowering size at the Hillier Gardens, but no trees survive there now (A. Coombes, pers. comm. 2008). In continental Europe Jan De Langhe has recorded it at the botanical garden in Wageningen in the Netherlands, at Arboretum de Chèvreloup Rocquen-court, France, and at the Botanischer Garten Berlin-Dahlem, Germany – but these are the only records traced, so it would seem to be rather rare throughout Europe. It is cultivated in the United States, but not frequently, and is not represented in any of our principal reference collections there. These omissions would seem to be unfortunate, as F. cuspidata is a tidy small tree with neat foliage and prolific white flowers in early summer, and is also drought-resistant and heat-tolerant – therefore potentially of great value as a water-wise landscaping tree.