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Botanical Name: Chionanthus virginicus
Common Name: Fringe Tree
Origin: Eastern USA
Locations: CSE, KN
Notable Feature: The tree is strikingly beautiful when in flower. Other common names include Old Man’s Beard and Grancy Graybeard – its loose, snowy white flower panicles flow from the branches, much like a man’s white beard.
Habit: A small, spreading, deciduous tree or large, suckering shrub growing 12 to 20 feet high and is often wider than high. Bark is dark gray-brown in color, becoming somewhat furrowed with reddish scales.
Flower: The very showy, slightly fragrant, white bloom appears in May to early June and consists of 6 to 8” long, fleecy-textured panicles. Each flower in the panicle is 1 ½” long with 4 strappy petals. Male trees usually have larger flowers than the females. Usually dioecious with the male and female flowers on different plants, but some specimens may have perfect (bisexual) flowers.
Fruit: In August to September dark blue, ¾”, fleshy, egg-shaped fruit appears in panicles, however partially hidden by foliage. Fruit develops on female trees.
Foliage: The medium to dark green, oblong leaves are often lustrous above and paler underneath. Leaves are opposite and 4 to 8” long with smooth margins. Fall coloring is usually yellowish green to brown.
Interesting Fact: In the wild, the tree may reach 25 to 30 feet in height. Although native to the southeast, the tree is perfectly hardy in Maine and Minnesota. It is considered by the British to be one of the finest American plants introduced into their gardens.