Plant of the Week - White Fringe Tree

Authors
Published on

 

This large shrub or small tree, the white fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus), has a somewhat spreading habit. The plant is in its glory in NW Ohio this week catching gardeners' attention. The white, slightly fragrant flowers, are born in panicles that beautifully hang downward with a very soft and delicate appearance.

 

White Fringetree in Bloom
Photo Credit: Amy Stone, OSU Extension-Lucas County

 

As flowers fade, the dark blue egg-shaped drupe will begin to appear later in the season. While sometimes hidden by the plant's leaves, birds will seek them out. They are very pretty and I enjoy pointing out their beauty to visitors during plant walks at the Toledo Botanical Garden. 

 

The plant prefers a well drained, but moist planting location. While it is quite adaptable, it does like a slightly acidic soil. It can take a full-sun to part-shade exposure. When in flower, it shouts out specimen tree, but can also be attractive planted in mass groups if space allows. It is a little late to leaf-out in the spring, sometimes causing concern and a little anxiousness on the homeowner's part, but that is normal for the plant. Leaves can turn a yellow color in the fall to add another season of interest.  

 

The white fringetree is in the family Oleaceae, just like lilac, privet and ash. A research scientist at Wright State has observed and studied the impact of the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) on the white fringetree. EAB can complete its life-cycle on this plant but it does not seemed to be killed as its relative the ash (Fraxinus spp.). For additional information about this insect and host relationship, check out this link: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/271328389_White_Fringetree_as_a_Novel_Larval_Host_for_Emerald_Ash_Borer

 

Take time to enjoy this plant throughout the seasons - spring flowers, summer fruit and fall color!