Story and Photos by Yvonne Lelong Bordelon
Versatile, hardy, and beautiful, native fringe tree is perfect for urban landscapes. Also known as grancy graybeard, this member of the olive family has long, fragrant, wispy white spring blossoms that move with the slightest breeze. In summer, it sports dark purple fruit beloved by birds. In fall, golden yellow foliage adorns its attractive form.
Fringe trees are dioecious. Both male and female trees flower, but only the female specimens bear fruit. The flowers on the male trees are slightly longer and showier. Both work well in woodland gardens, shrub borders, or as specimen plants. Good companions include blueberries (Vaccinium spp.) and native azaleas such as Piedmont (Rhododendron canescens) and flame (R. austrinum).
Quick Facts and Keys to Success
Common Name: Fringe tree or grancy graybeard
Botanical Name: Chionanthus virginicus
Blooming Period: Spring
Type: Native deciduous shrub/small tree
Mature Size: 15-25 feet
Exposure: Sun to part-shade
When to Plant: Late fall to winter
How to Plant: Does best in slightly acid, moist, well-drained, rich soil. Propagate from double stratified seed (fruit) collected in fall and also layering, grafting, budding, and softwood cuttings.
When to Prune: Seldom needed, only after flowering.
When to Fertilize: Compost and/or leaf-mulch year-round
In Your Landscape: Fringe tree is a showy, hardy, sustainable flowering native that does well in both urban and rural landscapes.