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Chionanthus virginicus

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

Chionanthus virginicus, commonly called fringetree, is a deciduous, a native shrub or small tree with a spreading, rounded habit that typically grows 12-20' tall (to 35' in the wild, however) and most often occurs in rich, moist woods and hillsides, moist stream banks, limestone glade margins and rocky bluffs and ledges. It's common name refers to the slightly fragrant, spring-blooming flowers which feature airy, terminal, drooping clusters (4-6" long) of fringe-like, creamy white petals.

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.   

The bark is scaly with dark brown ridges and red furrows. 

This plant is also tolerant of air pollution.

Regions:  Mountain, Piedmont, Coastal Plains

Seasons of Interest: 

  Blooms:   Spring           Nut/Fruit/Seed:   Late summer, fall

Seed: Drupe

Play Value: Wildlife Enhancement

Wildlife Value:  Its fruits are eaten by songbirds and small mammals. This plant is moderately resistant from damage from deer. 

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems:  This plant has some susceptibility to scale and borers (particularly when grown in dry locations).

12-20 ft.
The Fringetree has dioecious (separate male and female plants), but also may have perfect flowers on each plant. The male flowers are showier than female flowers. Fertilized perfect or female flowers give way to clusters of olive-like fruits which ripen to a dark, bluish black in late summer and are a food source for birds and wildlife. Occasionally trees may have both kinds of flowers present on the same plant. The male flowers are showier due to longer petals. However, both male and female trees are striking in bloom.
This plant is easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. The plant prefers moist, fertile soils. It seldom needs pruning. It is tolerant of air pollution and adapts well to urban settings, however it is intolerant of prolonged dry conditions.
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
The fringetree has wide, spear-shaped leaves (to 8" long) that turn yellow in autumn. The 3-8 in. opposite, simple leave are not especially showy.
fragrance, play, cpp, small tree, showy flowers, showy fruit, deciduous, fall color, specimen, native, birds, playground, pollinator, fragrant, wildlife plant, fragrant flowers, children’s garden, wildlife

NCCES plant id: 460

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