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Chionanthus virginicus (White fringetree)
Makin, Julie

Chionanthus virginicus

Chionanthus virginicus L.

White Fringetree, Fringe Tree, Snowflower Tree, Flowering Ash, Old Man's Beard, Grandfather Graybeard, Grancy Graybeard

Oleaceae (Olive Family)

Synonym(s): Chionanthus virginicus var. maritimus

USDA Symbol: CHVI3

USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

The primary attraction of this 15-30 ft., deciduous tree or shrub is the drooping clusters of fragrant, white blossoms. Dark-blue, grape-like clusters of fruits are produced from female blossoms. The numerous delicate, fragrant, white-to-greenish-white flowers are composed of 4-6 strap-shaped petals 1 inch long by 1/16 inch wide. They hang in showy, branched clusters 4-6 inches long. Flowers open before or with the first leaves. Other features are dark-green, glossy foliage and a pale-gray trunk with bands of white. Leaves are deciduous, opposite, 4-8 inches long and 1/4 inch wide; the petiole is 1 inch long. Fall color is usually not significant. Shrub or small tree with short trunk, narrow, oblong crown, and showy masses of fragrant, lacy, white flowers.

One of the last trees to bear new leaves in spring, it appears dead until the leaves and flowers appear. The genus name Chionanthus, meaning "snow" and "flower," describes the blossoms.


From the Image Gallery

78 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Opposite
Fruit Type: Drupe
Size Notes: Up to about 30 feet tall.
Leaf: Green
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Bluish black

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun


USA: AL , AR , DC , DE , FL , GA , KY , LA , MD , MO , MS , NC , NJ , NY , OH , OK , PA , SC , TN , TX , VA , WV
Native Distribution: FL to e. TX, n. to NJ, s. OH, s. MO & OK; naturalized northward
Native Habitat: Damp woods; thickets; bluffs

Growing Conditions

Water Use: High
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: None
Soil Description: Loose, moist, sandy soils.


Use Wildlife: Berries are attractive to wildlife. Twigs and foliage are browsed by many animals. (The plant is only mildly tolerant of this browsing.)
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Attracts: Birds

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Rustic sphinx
(Manduca rustica)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA


Seed Collection: Collect from July to September when fruit has turned purple. Clean seeds from the pulp and keep in cold moist storage up to two years.
Seed Treatment: Double-stratification: Expose seeds to a period of warm (68 degrees), moist stratification for 2-3 months, during which the radicle will emerge. Follow this treatment with cool (41 degrees), moist stratification for another 2-3 months.
Commercially Avail: yes

Mr. Smarty Plants says

Native alternative for Japanese Red Maple in Oklahoma
October 12, 2009
Mr. Smarty Plants, I am looking for a native alternative to a Japanese Red Maple. I would like a small tree that I can put in my front garden that will not pose a security risk my being overgrown and ...
view the full question and answer

Non-toxic shade trees for horses in Florida
April 01, 2009
Looking for non poisonous shade trees for pasture with horses. Would prefer flowering or something that changes color. Thank you.
view the full question and answer

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Texas Discovery Gardens - Dallas, TX
Delaware Nature Society - Hockessin, DE
Crosby Arboretum - Picayune, MS
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department - Austin, TX
Georgia Native Plant Society - Atlanta, GA
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE

Wildflower Center Seed Bank

LBJWC-1072 Collected 2007-07-28 in Morris County by Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

1 collection(s) available in the Wildflower Center Seed Bank


Bibref 1186 - Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America (2005) Covell, C.V., Jr.
Bibref 298 - Field Guide to Texas Trees (1999) Simpson, B.J.
Bibref 1185 - Field Guide to Western Butterflies (Peterson Field Guides) (1999) Opler, P.A. and A.B. Wright
Bibref 1620 - Gardening with Native Plants of the South (Reprint Edition) (2009) Wasowski, S. with A. Wasowski
Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.
Bibref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region (2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski
Bibref 248 - Texas Wildflowers: A Field Guide (1984) Loughmiller, C. & L. Loughmiller

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Research Literature

Reslit 243 - Accelerated propagation of Chionanthus virginicus via embryo culture (1999) C. R. Chan and R. D. Marquard
Reslit 153 - Lignans and secoiridoids from the root bark of Chionanthus virginicus L.: Isolation, identification and HPLC analysis (2005) L. Boyer, R. Elias, K. Taoubi, L. Debrauwer, R. Fa...
Reslit 538 - Antioxidant activity of lignans from fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus L.) (2006) I. Gulcin, R. Elias, A. Gepdiremen and L. Boyer
Reslit 539 - Antioxidant secoiridoids from fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus L.) (2009) I. Gulcin, R. Elias, A. Gepdiremen, K. Taoubi and ...
Reslit 573 - Fall transplanting improves establishment of balled and burlapped fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus L) (1996) J. R. Harris, P. Knight and J. Fanelli
Reslit 1086 - Chionanthus (Oleaceae), a new host genus for the powdery mildew Phyllactinia fraxini (Erysiphaceae) (2003) M. Piatek
Reslit 2499 - Foliar dehydration tolerance of twelve deciduous tree species (1998) R. M. Auge, X. G. Duan, J. L. Croker, W. T. Witte ...
Reslit 2620 - Soil preferences for federally-listed plants on the Lake Wales Ridge in Highlands County, Florida (2007) E. S. Menges, C. W. Weekley, S. I. Hamze, R. L. Pi...

This information was provided by the Florida WIldflower Foundation.
Search More Titles in Research Literature

From the Archive

Wildflower Newsletter 1998 VOL. 15, NO.6 - Landscaping with Native Trees, Society for Ecological Restoration Conference Rev...

Additional resources

USDA: Find Chionanthus virginicus in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Chionanthus virginicus in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Chionanthus virginicus


Record Modified: 2023-04-19
Research By: TWC Staff

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