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Grancy Greybeard Chionanthus virginicus

Previously known as:

  • Chionanthus angustifolius
  • Ligustrum cotinifolium
Phonetic Spelling
kee-oh-NAN-thus ver-JIN-ih-kus
Description

Fringetree is a small deciduous tree in the Oleaceae (olive) family. It is native to the eastern U.S. Its genus name comes from the Greek chion meaning snow and Anthos meaning flower. It generally grows from 12 to 20 feet tall and wide, with a multi-stemmed rounded habit, though it can be trained into a single trunk. 

This plant grows best in full to part sun with the best foliage in partial shade and the best flowering in full sun.  Plant in average to rich well-drained neutral to alkaline soil. It can tolerate clay soil, however, and also tolerates some drought. They are best transplanted when young and rarely need pruning growing about 6 to 10 inches each year.

In late spring, fragrant flower clusters with creamy white fringe-like petals appear. The showy blue-black fruits, maturing in late summer, provides a food source for birds and wildlife.   A clear yellow color appears to provide some brightness to the fall landscape and the bark with its scaly dark brown ridges and red furrows brings winter interest.

In the nursery it may be difficult to determine if the plants are male or female unless they have flowers or fruits present.  While the male flowers are more showy fortunately both male and female plants make beautiful additions to any garden. 

Fringetree is a nice specimen plant in lawns and also works well as a flowering tree in a native garden.  Plant it in small groups along a woodland border or take advantage of the sweet fragranced blooms in a children's, or sensory garden

Fire Risk: This plant has a low flammability rating.

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems:  This plant has some susceptibility to scale and borers (particularly when grown in dry locations).  It is sometimes attacked by the Emerald Ash Borer.

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscapes:
Davidson County Demo Garden Michael McCarthy Memorial Garden, All Saints Episcopal, Concord Native/ Woodland Garden
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#showy flowers#deciduous#small tree#fragrant flowers#specimen#shrub#wildlife plant#native tree#winter interest#fall interest#showy fruits#food source wildlife#cpp#fire low flammability#NC native#children's garden#native garden#playground plant#blue fruits#edible fruits#pollinator plant#black fruits#Braham Arboretum#fantz#food source summer#food source fall#Piedmont Mountains FAC#bird friendly#food source soft mast fruit#Coastal FACU#Audubon#mccarthy memorial garden
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#showy flowers#deciduous#small tree#fragrant flowers#specimen#shrub#wildlife plant#native tree#winter interest#fall interest#showy fruits#food source wildlife#cpp#fire low flammability#NC native#children's garden#native garden#playground plant#blue fruits#edible fruits#pollinator plant#black fruits#Braham Arboretum#fantz#food source summer#food source fall#Piedmont Mountains FAC#bird friendly#food source soft mast fruit#Coastal FACU#Audubon#mccarthy memorial garden
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Chionanthus
    Species:
    virginicus
    Family:
    Oleaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Native Americans used this plant for disinfectant and dermatological aid.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Central & Eastern U.S.A
    Distribution:
    Throughout East, South East (Texas to NY and Massachusetts).
    Fire Risk Rating:
    low flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    Fruits are eaten by songbirds and small mammals.
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Fragrance
    Shade
    Wildlife Food Source
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Resistant to fire and moderately resistant to damage from deer.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 12 ft. 0 in. - 30 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 12 ft. 0 in. - 20 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Shrub
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Multi-stemmed
    Open
    Oval
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    12-24 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Black
    Blue
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Berry
    Drupe
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Fertilized perfect or female flowers give way to clusters of olive-like fruits which ripen to a dark, bluish black from July to September and are a food source for birds and wildlife.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Cream/Tan
    White
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Dioecious (separate male and female plants), but also may have perfect flowers on each plant. These are delicately fragrant paniculate flowers produced on previous years growth; ivory to white clusters 4 to 8 in. long. The male flowers are showier than female flowers due to longer petals, however, both male and female trees are striking in bloom. Flowers bloom from April to May.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Obovate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The fringetree has wide, spear-shaped leaves (to 8" long) that turn yellow in autumn. The 3-8 in. opposite, simple leaves, glabrous above and pubescent underside, are not especially showy.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Red/Burgundy
    Surface/Attachment:
    Smooth
    Bark Description:
    The bark is scaly with dark brown ridges and red furrows.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Lawn
    Recreational Play Area
    Small Space
    Landscape Theme:
    Children's Garden
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Flowering Tree
    Mass Planting
    Small Tree
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Drought
    Fire
    Pollution
    Urban Conditions