The Fringe Tree is one of the finest native flowering trees of eastern North America. It is a unique and beautiful deciduous shrub or small tree that grows as an understory plant in woodlands. It has pendant clusters of snow white flowers that cover the branches in the spring. The flowers have four long, narrow, ribbon-like petals and when in full bloom, the delicate, airy-looking blossoms give the tree a cloud-like appearance. Chionanthus virginicus has a spreading, rounded habit and it grows 12-20' tall (to 35' in the wild, however) and most often occurs in rich, moist woods and hillsides, moist stream banks, limestone glade margins and rocky bluffs and ledges. Common name refers to the slightly fragrant, spring-blooming flowers which feature airy, terminal, drooping clusters (4-6" long) of fringe-like, creamy white petals. Dioecious (separate male and female plants), but also may have perfect flowers on each plant. Male flowers are showier than female flowers. Fertilized perfect or female flowers give way to clusters of olive-like fruits which ripen to a dark, bluish black in late summer and are a food source for birds and wildlife. Large, elliptic leaves (to 8" long) turn yellow in autumn. Grow in groups or as specimens in lawns or in shrub or woodland borders. Also may be used in native plant gardens or near streams or ponds. It is spectacular when in full bloom. Easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Prefers moist, fertile soils. Tolerant of air pollution and adapts well to urban settings.
The seeds have a period of dormancy. They can be planted in the fall for spring germination or they can be cold stratified to simulate winter conditions and to break their dormancy.
1. Scarify the seeds by nicking or sanding the seed coat.
2. Soak the seed in water for several hours.
3. Place the seeds in a plastic bag and seal it. Store the bag in a refrigerator for two months.
4. Fill a pot with potting soil. Use a pot that has drainage holes in the base.
5. Sow the seeds on the soil and cover them with a thin layer of soil.
6. Water the container and leave it to drain.
7. Put the pot in a warm, sunny area.
8. Water the seeds and keep the soil moist but not wet.
9. The seedlings can be transplanted when they are a few inches tall.