Submitted by Betsy Washington, Northern Neck Chapter, Virginia Native Plant Society
Chionanthus virginicus: Fringetree, “Old Man’s Beard”
Fringetree is one of our most beautiful and under-used, small flowering trees. It is breathtaking in full bloom in May when clouds of dainty, silky-white flowers are held in drooping clusters at the ends of branches. The flowers have a delicate but evocative fragrance that carries for some distance in the garden. Fringetrees are named for their pendulous flower clusters that look like a fringe of snow drooping up to 6–8 inches from the branch tips, or an “Old Man’s Beard,” another common name.
The flowers are dioecious, meaning male and female flowers occur on separate trees. Their diverse pollinators include honey and native bees, bumblebees, small beetles and a variety of butterflies. If pollinated by a nearby male, the female flowers ripen into clusters of dark blue-black plum-like fruit that…