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Fringe tree

Flowers of fringe tree

Fringe tree grows as either a wide-spreading, multi-stemmed shrub or a small tree useful in native woodland gardens, as a specimen plant in groups, borders, or near large buildings. The fringe tree's most outstanding feature is the fragrant, strap-like, white flowers that are borne in six to eight-inch long fleecy panicles in late May to early June.

Botanical name:

Chionanthus virginicus

All common names:

fringe tree, fringetree, old man's beard, white fringetree

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Planting Site:

  • Residential and parks,
  • Under utility lines

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Shrub,
  • Tree


  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • North America

Landscape Uses:

  • Massing,
  • Mixed border,
  • Patio/sidewalk,
  • Specimen,
  • Utility

Size Range:

  • Small tree (15-25 feet),
  • Compact tree (10-15 feet),
  • Large shrub (more than 8 feet)

Mature Height:

12-20 feet

Mature Width:

12-20 feet

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8,
  • Zone 9

Soil Preference:

  • Acid soil,
  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Clay soil,
  • Road salt

Acid Soils:

  • Prefers

Alkaline Soils:

  • Moderately Tolerant

Salt Spray:

  • Intolerant

Soil Salt:

  • Tolerant

Drought Conditions:

  • Intolerant

Poor Drainage:

  • Intolerant

Planting Considerations:

  • May be difficult to find in nurseries

Ornamental Interest:

  • Spring blossoms,
  • Fragrant flowers,
  • Showy fruit,
  • Showy flowers

Seasons of Interest:

  • late spring,
  • early summer,
  • early fall,
  • mid fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Fragrant,
  • White

Shape or Form:

  • Multi-stemmed,
  • Oval,
  • Round

Growth Rate:

  • Slow

Transplants Well:

  • No


  • Birds

More Information:

Fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus)
Fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus)
photo: John Hagstrom

Tree & Plant Care

In landscape situations Fringetree is typically a shrub growing 12 to 20 feet high, but as a tree it can reach 30 feet high and wide.

Tolerant of wind and air pollution.
Best grown in well-drained soil in full sun to part shade.
Prefers moist, fertile soils.
Seldom needs pruning.

Disease, pests and problems

No common serious problems

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Resistant to black walnut toxicity.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to the southeastern United States.

Bark color and texture 

Light gray-brown and slightly ridged.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Leaves are late to emerge in spring. 
Simple, opposite, narrow to elliptical leaves;  3 to 8 inches long with entire margins;  lustrous medium green, paler underside.
Yellow fall color.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Fleecy, 6 to 8 inch clusters (panicles) of  strap-like, four-petaled white flowers resembling an old man's beard.
Dioecious (separate male and female plants).  Male flowers are showier than female flowers.
Flowers on the previous year’s wood.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Only female plants bear ½ inch long, bluish fruit, which ripens in September.


Location of Chionanthus virginicus (Fringe tree) at the Arboretum