Category: June Interest

Fringetree, Chionanthus virginicus & Chionanthus retusus

May 27, 2015

…And her gauzy garments fleet
Round her like a glittering sleet….

Amy Lowell

Chionanthus virginicus flower

Fringetree, Chionanthus virginicus presents an outstanding spring-white, floral display. Douglas Peattie (1898-1964), in his 1948 classic book, A Natural History of Trees, expands on Lowell’s metaphorical couplet with, “…it is a raving beauty when in mid-spring it is loaded from top to bottom with the airiest, most ethereal yet showy flowers boasted by any member of our northern sylva. A faint sweet fragrance breathes subtly from the flowers.”  William Cullina, in his 2002, Native Trees, Shrubs & Vines, essentially concurring with Peattie, states, “Every spring I am completely enchanted by this tree when it fluffs into flower. There are few more transcendent sights than its thick twigs hung with clouds of sweetly fragrant, delicate flowers like so much cotton or fleece.”    Thirty years ago when I first started my focused look on these and other plants, these were early June bloomers. More recently we now can also enjoy these flowers in late-May, as well as in early-and-mid-June. The individual flowers usually have four (sometimes five) narrow, strap-like, one-inch-long petals. However, the fragrant flowers occur in great numbers, in six-to-eight-inch long, soft, fleecy, panicles.