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Chionanthus virginicus

Common Name(s):
Fringe tree, Old man's beard
Native Plants, Shrubs, Trees

This native large shrub to small tree has large, 4-to 8-inch-long loose clusters of lightly fragrant white flowers cover the white fringetree in spring for about two weeks just as the leaves begin to emerge. Flowers start opening in April in the Coastal Plains, and in early May in the Upstate. Fringe trees are dioecious - male and female flowers are on separate plants - although occasional trees may have both kinds of flowers present on the same plant. Male flowers are showier due to longer petals. However, both male and female trees are striking in bloom.

Fringetrees are rarely available labeled as male or female, so unless they are purchased in bloom or with fruit present, it is impossible to know which one you are getting. Fortunately, both are beautiful. 

They are best transplanted when young.   A slow grower with opposite, dark green, glossy smooth-margined leaves that turn yellowish in fall.  The bark is scaly with dark brown ridges and red furrows.  The fruit attracts song birds.  It is tolerant of air pollution.

This tree is frequently damaged by deer.

12-20 ft.
Gold fall foliage.
Panicles of creamy white, fragrant flowers suspended from branches in May; male flowers are more showy; dark blue drupe fruit in fall
Sun to partial shade; prefers moist, well-drained soil. Does not do well in acidic soil.
Medium to coarse
Spreading, open crown; variable shape between seedlings; often multistemmed
Sun to partial shade; average moisture; tolerates dry soil
Delicately fragrant flowers produced on previous years growth; ivory to white clusters 6 to 8 in. long; dark blue fruit in fall
12-20 ft.
Growth Rate:
Slow to moderate
3-8 in. opposite, simple leaf; yellowish-green to golden brown fall color; not especially showy
fragrance, showy flowers, showy fruit, deciduous, fall color, specimen, native, birds, small tree, fragrant, wildlife plant, wildlife, fragrant flowers

NCCES plant id: 460

Chionanthus virginicus Chionanthus virginicus
Photo by Tom Potterfield, CC BY-NC-SA - 2.0
Chionanthus virginicus C. virginicus flower and leaf detail
Photo by Erick Lux, CC BY-NC-SA - 2.0
Chionanthus virginicus C. virginicus growth and bloom habit
Photo by Bob Gutowski, CC BY-NC-SA - 2.0
Chionanthus virginicus whole tree
Distant Hill Gardens, CC BY-NC-ND - 2.0