The fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus) grows as a small tree or large shrub. It rarely tops a height of 20 feet. Each spring a profusion of white flowers appear with the tree's foliage. The flowers have a strap-like panicle, making the tree appear to be covered in long fringe. Female trees develop dark, purplish drupes that are adored by birds. The tree produces yellow fall shades in northern states, but in southern states the leaves turn brown.
Sunlight and Wind
The fringe tree grows well in both full sunlight or partial shade. Flower production in partial shade appears more striking and abundant. In hot, southern states the tree benefits from afternoon shade. The location should offer wind protection, since the tree tends to be brittle and foliage is easily damaged in hard winds.
The fringe tree grows best in acidic soil conditions. It requires moist soil and will even grow well in water-logged areas. The tree grows beside streams and ponds where other trees suffer from the extended wet soil. The fringe tree grows over 1 foot per year in moist soil with ample organic material. Regular fertilizing is also important for growth.
The flowers of the male tree appear more profusely than the female tree. Each flower has four to six strap-like petals that dangle downward. Each flower cluster measures 4 to 6 inches. Female trees produce fruit that attract birds and small mammals. The male tree produces no fruit.
Each year during the late spring to early summer the fringe tree has a flush of growth. The tree normally grows only 6 to 10 inches per year unless fertilized and planted in soil rich in nutrients, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The foliage grows up to 8 inches in length.
Very few pests afflict the fringe tree. Scale often appears, but is easily controlled with horticultural oil. Mites often plague the tree, but are washed away with a variety of pesticide soaps. Fungal leaf spots and powdery mildew can cause defoliation, but are treated using fungicides.