Plant Profile: Fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus)

The Fringetree is a small tree that is native to the Eastern United States.
The “fringe” of this tree refers to the long, white, clusters of drooping flowers in late spring. They are mildly fragrant and give it its alternate common name of “Old Man’s Beard.”
It prefers moist, but well-draining and fertile soil. It flowers best in full-sun to part-shade. It typically reaches between 12 to 20 feet tall.
Deer love to munch on it, so keep it protected while it is still young and small. Once it gains its height, the deer cannot reach those yummy leaves.
This tree seldom needs pruning and is tolerant of air pollution, so it makes a good choice for urban gardens.
A Fringetree can be male or female—the male version being the one with slightly showier flowers. The female tree’s flowers, if fertilized, produce clusters of olive-like fruits in late summer that are a desirable food source for birds and wildlife.
Fringetree looks especially beautiful set against a backdrop of dark evergreen trees and its white blossoms practically glow in the moonlight. 
There is a Chinese fringetree (Chionanthus retusus) that is very similar in appearance to our native species. The native one has smooth bark, while the Asian one has bark with furrows of dark brown and light gray.
Fringetree – You Can Grow That!

Read more about Fringetree in the November 2014 issue of Washington Gardener Magazine.
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