White Fringetree

Basic Information
Tree ID: 
Genus and species: 
The White Fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus) is a dicot, deciduous tree with grey bark. During the spring and summer the tree blooms with dark green leaves small white flowers that don nicknames such as "Snowflower Tree," "Flowering Ash," "Old Man's Beard," and "Grandfather Graybeard." The the height of our tree is 2.9 meters, but adult Fringetrees can grow up to 10 meters tall. The DBH is 0.040 meters (measuring the four bottom, thickest pieces of the trunk). The fruiting bodies appear as dark blue, oval shaped clusters of drupes. The Fringetree is related to the olive family, and the fruiting bodies reflect this similarity. As White Fringetrees tend to be late bloomers, we won't expect flowers on our tree until April or May, but are excited to smell the famously sweet fragrance when it blooms.
Anna, Georgia, and Maya
Collected Data
Tree shape: 
Date of tree entry: 
2.90 m
Diameter at breast height: 
0.04 m

There are too many multiple trunks to accurately measure the DBH, so this is just an estimate
The bark is a grey-light brown color with dark brown spots, and slight reddish undertones. The bark is scaly in texture.
Twigs & branches
The White Fringetree's twigs are stout, hairy, light brown to orange, later gray. The leaf scars are raised, and there are raised, oval, darker brown lenticels.
The White Fringetree's is deciduous and loses its leaves in the winter. In the warmer months, the leaves are dark green and elliptical shape with a distinct tip, ranging from 3 to 8 inches long and 1.5 to 3 inches wide. In autumn the leaves turn a beautiful yellow or brown color.
Reproductive Structures
The White Fringetree is dioecious, which means that it have male and females flowers on separate plants. The flowers are composed of 4-6 strap-shaped petals that are 1 inch long by 1/16 inch wide. The petals hang in showy, branched clusters. The flowers on male trees have longer petals on their flowers than female trees.
Dark blue, olive shaped fruits house a single seed in their center. These are drupe fruits, related to the olive family. They tend to appear in late August, early September.
  • Spring Fringetree
  • Winter Fringetree
  • Summer Fringetree (source: Michigan Bulb)
Natural range of distribution: 
The White Fringetree originally took home in wet, partially shady places like forests, wooded areas by streams, rocky bluffs, and thickets. The native distribution of the tree is throughout the Southeastern United States, from Florida to Texas, and up through southern New Jersey, Ohio, Missouri, and Oklahoma (Department of Horticulture). The tree has spread to the Northern United States and has been able to survive winters as far north as Maine. The tree can now be found in Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, DC, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Origin, history, and uses: 

The White Fringetree is native to the southeastern United States.

Native Americans, pioneers, and Appalachian folk herbalists used the bark in various preparations to treat a number of maladies, such as skin problems, wounds, fevers, and digestive complaints. Native Americans used the tree’s dried roots and bark to treat skin inflammations, while the crushed bark was used in treatment of sores and wounds.

Because of its showy flowers and fragrant smell, it has become a popular plant for landscaping and gardens.

Leaves: The trees lose their leaves around November and regrows them around April to May. Flowers: The tree blooms from April to May (flowers open before or with the first leaves). Fruits: The female trees fruit from August to October. Trees are typically 5–8 years old before they begin to produce seeds.

American Fringetree (Chionanthus Virginicus), https://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/trees/plants/fringetree.html. 

“Chionanthus Virginicus.” Chionanthus Virginicus (American Fringetree, American Fringe Tree, Fringetree, Fringe Tree, Grancy Greybeard, Old Man’s Beard, Sweetheart Tree, White Fringetree) | North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox, https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/chionanthus-virginicus/. 

“Plant Database.” Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin, https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=chvi3. 

“White Fringe Tree.” Missouri Department of Conservation, https://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/white-fringe-tree.

Media and Arts

For our final presentation, we made replicas of the Whiite Fringetree’s flowers with fun facts attached to them and put them on the tree to imitate what a blooming tree would look like since ours hadn’t bloomed yet.


This photo shows the resiliance of our tree, able to survive even through the harsh New Haven winter. While it bears no leaves yet, the White Fringetree anticiaptes the arrival of Spring, when it can finally unfurl its leaves. 

As Spring starts popping up around New Haven, our Fringetree proves itself to be a late bloomer, not quite ready to sprout its flowers.