Chionanthus virginicus in bloom, and Bartram's painting

Left: Fringetree in full bloom (photo by Ellen Honeycutt). Right: Willam Bartram’s painting of fringetree (

Our Plant of the Year for 2021, as chosen by our members in November 2020, is fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus). As we finish up its bloom season, this month is an appropriate time to educate people about this beautiful native tree. Native throughout the state, blooms in the south have finished while plants in the north may still be blooming now.

I encourage you to read the profile on our website for this plant, well-researched and written by our POY committee led by Valerie Boss, with contributions by Denise Hartline.

This small tree can be found in the wild: I have seen it on rock outcrops such as Arabia Mountain and we occasionally find it on rescue sites. The delicate blooms are a treat to find in April and May but when not blooming I don’t think many people would realize what it is. For me, the opposite leaf arrangement and the large oval leaves are the first clues. Should you come upon a female plant, you might also spot the olive-like fruits.

I’m also thrilled to see this plant get more use in designed landscapes. During the blooming season, it is easy to spot them and I have seen them in John’s Creek and along Windward Parkway (both in North Fulton County). Its smaller stature (topping out at 30 feet but usually smaller) makes it a good choice for places where large trees cannot be accommodated.

Fringetree blooms

Terminal panicles on spring branches of Chionanthus virginicus.


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