May - Fringe Tree

Chionanthus virginicus

Fringe Tree in the Spring & Fall

Fringe tree is an easily grown Missouri native shrub or small tree that reaches a height of 12 to 20 feet and features delightfully shaggy — fringey — clusters of creamy white petals. Appearing in May and June, the distinct blooms are responsible for the plant’s additional common names of old man's beard and grancy — slang for grandfather — greybeard. It is a dioecious plant, which means it can be male or female. Male specimens may flower more elaborately. Fertilized female flowers give way to clusters of olive-like fruits which ripen to a dark, bluish black in late summer and serve as a food source for birds and wildlife.


Fringe tree’s leaves are 3 to 8 inches long and appear during flowering. In fall, the leaves turn a clear yellow color that adds variety to the fall landscape. Its mature bark has scaly dark brown ridges and red furrows, which adds winter interest to a landscape.


Fringe tree prefers moist soil but is adaptable to a wide variety of settings and is somewhat drought tolerant once established, though may suffer in periods of extended drought. It will grow in full to part sun. 


Fringe Tree leaves, flowers and berries



Story by Jan Wiese-Fales. Photos courtesy of Chris Starbuck