Chionanthus virginicus, Fringe Tree, Old Man’s Beard, is a small shrub or tree in the olivefamily, often multi trunked, native to the southeastern United States. It is a common garden tree, tolerating air pollution and a wide variety of soil conditions, is fragrant in the spring and covered with masses of fluffy white flowers.
Leaves are opposite, simple and entire, similar to an olive’s leaf, which makes sense since they are in the olive family. The spring blooming flowers are white with four 3 cm narrow and pendulous petals. In full bloom it is mostly covered in flowers. It is dioecious, having male and female plants, although plants bearing perfect flowers are found in nature. Female flowers
are thinner, almost filament like, male flowers are about three times the thickness and showier. It can reach 10 meters under the best conditions (full sun, rich,
neither wet nor dry but well drained soil) but is tolerant of everything but extremes of dryness, wetness and shade. The fruits look like a cross between an olive and a concord grape and born in a droopy cluster or ten or so. Bark is tan with a hint of silver fuzz. Scraping away the outer layer of bark with a fingernail shows a bright apple green inner bark. Pith is white and very spongey. Lenticels are prominent, redder than the bark, about 1 mm, and shaped rather like a coffee bean. There are no leaf scars on the twigs. There is a prominent terminal bud, flanked by two co-terminal buds, and two lateral buds, giving a total of five buds within the first half inch of the twig end. Leave turn yellow in the fall.
This particular specimen is older and has been almost hollowed out, leaving a 6 inch diameter enclosed ground level space which does get direct sun. The live part of the bush leans northerly. There is a small “cave” between the enclosed space and the outside. Thus in the summer, it is a favorite basking spot for small reptiles, particularly five lined skinks and dekay’s brown snakes.
And yes, this was homework. But it was work, and the post needs doing, and it IS a pretty nice looking shrub. Don’t worry. Next week should have more knitting.