Chionanthus virginicus

White Fringetree, Grancy Gray-beard

Oleaceae

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Habitat

  • native to southeastern and south central United States
  • zone 5 and warmer parts of 4
  • most northern population is in southern New Jersey

Habit and Form

  • a deciduous small tree or large shrub
  • 12' to 20' tall
  • spread equals height
  • shape ranges from irregular and open to dense and rounded
  • habit is quite variable
  • multi-stemmed in most cases
  • somewhat slow growing

Summer Foliage

  • opposite arrangement
  • simple, elliptic or elongated leaves
  • acute base and tip
  • leaves are 3" to 8" long
  • leaves are 1.5" to 3" wide
  • color is dark green
  • one of the last deciduous plants to leaf out in the spring

Autumn Foliage

  • a mix of yellow, green and brown
  • can be a good yellow or golden color

Flowers

  • dioecious, with male and female plants
  • male flowers are showier than female flowers
  • white
  • fringe-like flowers
  • flowers are in loose clusters
  • clusters are 4" to 8" long
  • very showy in bloom
  • bloom time is late May to early June
  • slightly fragrant

Fruit

  • on female plants only
  • blue-black "olive-like" fruits
  • 0.5" to 0.8" long
  • held in clusters
  • enjoyed by birds
  • somewhat hidden by foliage
  • ripens in late August through September
  • male plant needed in vicinity for fruit to set

Bark

  • smooth on young branches
  • slightly ridged and rough on mature trunks
  • gray color

Culture

  • full sun to partial shade
  • prefers moist, deep, acidic soils that are well-drained
  • fairly adaptable
  • possibly difficult to transplant
  • requires little maintenance once established

Landscape Use

  • specimen
  • naturalistic plantings
  • shrub border
  • for flowering
  • fruits to attract birds
  • in groupings
  • urban sites due to pollution tolerance

Liabilities

  • propagation is difficult so plant is expensive or hard to locate in commerce
  • most plants are seed propagated so the plant sex is generally unknown for purchased plant
  • slow growing

ID Features

  • stem is square
  • late to leaf out in Spring
  • white fringe-like flowers
  • females with purple-black "olive-like" fruit
  • multi-stemmed large shrub or small tree

Propagation

  • by seed

Cultivars/Varieties

  • None

© Copyright Mark H. Brand, 1997-2015.

The digital materials (images and text) available from the UConn Plant Database are protected by copyright. Public use via the Internet for non-profit and educational purposes is permitted. Use of the materials for profit is prohibited.

Citation and Acknowledgements: University of Connecticut Plant Database, http://hort.uconn.edu/plants, Mark H. Brand, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, Storrs, CT 06269-4067 USA.