Also Known As
American Fringe-tree [3]
Flowering Ash [7]
Fringe-flower [3]
Grancy Gray Beard [2,3]
Granddaddy's Beard [3]
Graybeard [3]
Old Man's Beard [2,3,6] Not to be confused with Usnea lichen.
Snow-drop Tree [3]
Snowflower Tree [7]
Nita imilipa ("bear-its-food") [3]
Hataks Pone Nepakwibe [3]
Chionanthus angustifolius [1]
Chionanthus henryae [1]
Chionanthus heterophylus [1]
Chionanthus longifolius [1]
Chionanthus maritimus [1]
Chionanthus maritimus var. rhombifolius [1]
Chionanthus montanus [1]
Chionanthus obovatus [1]
Chionanthus trifidus [1] 
Chionanthus triflorus [1]
Chionanthus vernalis [1]
Chionanthus virginica [2]
Chionanthus virginicus sbsp. angustifolius [1]
Chionanthus virginicus sbsp. maritimus [1]
Chionanthus virginicus var. latifolius [1]
Chionanthus virginicus var. maritimus [1]
Chionanthus virginicus var. montanus [1]
Chionanthus virginicus var. pubescens [1]
ETYMOLOGY: The "genus name comes from the Greek words chion meaning snow and anthos meaning a flower for the snow white flowers of C. virginicus." [5] The "specific epithet means of Virginia." [5] 

Order:   Lamiales
Family:   Oleaceae
Genus:    Chionanthus
Species: virginicus

Florida n c

Edible Parts
Animal Interaction
Bird Butterfly Bat
Other Uses
Medicinal Fragrant
Here in Florida this small native tree is found in moist hammocks and along wooded trails in central and northern parts of the state. It can be spectacular when it is in full bloom. The divine scent of the late winter to early spring blooms is absolutely lovely. In the late 1800's Millspaugh sang the praises of its medicinal bark and root bark. The flowers and leaves have also been used medicinally. These days, some contemporary herbalists are not so enthusiastic about its uses. Foster and Duke warn us that overdose of parts may cause vomiting, headaches, and slow pulse. Refer to "Florida Ethnobotany, by Daniel Austin" online for details of its medicinal uses. It is a host for a few sphinx butterflies including the pretty Rustic Sphinx. Birds and other wildlife eat the small dark blue fruits, which are actually drupes. 

CAUTION: Foster and Duke warn us that overdose of parts may cause vomiting, headaches, and slow pulse.
MEDICINAL ROOTS: Dried roots (native use) "to treat skin inflammations." [2]
MEDICINAL BARK: "The Choctaw boiled the bark and used the extracts to bathe wounds. They also used a mashed bark as a poultice on cuts and bruises. (Bushnell, 1908)." [3] "The crushed bark was used in treatment of sores and wounds." [2] "The Alabama and Koasati used the bark to treat toothache, and the Koasati used it on cuts and bruises like their relatives the Choctaw. (Taylor, 1940)." [3] 
ORNAMENTAL: This species is often planted in gardens. 
USEFUL WOOD: It "is light brown" with sapwood that is "paler brown; heavy, hard, and close-grained." [2]
WILDLIFE: "Said to attract bats. Larval host for Rustic Sphinx (Manduca rustica), Waved Sphinx (Ceratomia undulosa), and Laurel Sphinx (Sphinx kalmiae)." [4] The "dark, bluish black (fruits) in late summer and are a food source for birds (songbirds) and wildlife (small mammals and small rodents)." [5,7] "Among vertebrate animals, the fruits of this woody plant are eaten by such birds as the Northern Cardinal, Eastern Bluebird, Brown Thrasher, Northern Mockingbird, Blue Jay, Pileated Woodpecker, and Wild Turkey." [7] "This plant is moderately resistant from damage from deer." [5] "Twigs and foliage are browsed by many animals. The plant is only mildly tolerant of this browsing." [7] 

NATIVE RANGE: Although the Atlas of Florida Plants shows a "vouchered range" from Sarasota to Brevard county and north here in Florida, I have seen in growing even further south, including my home county of DeSoto. Beyond that, it is "native to the savannas and lowlands of the southeastern United States, from New Jersey south to Florida, and west to Oklahoma and Texas." [2]
NATIVE HABITAT: "Moist hammocks, but adaptable to many situations." [4]
DESCRIPTION: A small deciduous flowering tree that can be spectacular when in full bloom. Often multi-trunked. "It is usually dioecious, though occasional plants bear flowers of both sexes." [2] 
HEIGHT: 10 to 36' tall. [2,4] "Though ordinarily less." [2]
WIDTH: 8 to 20' wide. [4]
RATE OF GROWTH: "Slow to moderate." [6]
BARK: "Scaly, brown tinged with red." [2]
LEAVES: Opposite, "ovate or oblong." [2] 3-8" long. [2] "Hairless above, and finely downy below." [2] They appear late. [4] Yellow in the fall.
FLOWERS: Highly aromatic. Ivory to white in "clusters 6-8 inches long." [6] A "deeply four-lobed corolla." [2] "Lobes thread-like." [2] The flowers are "produced on the previous year's growth." [6]
FRUIT: A round "dark blue to purple drupe" that contains "a single seed." [2] Half to three quarters of an inch lone. [2] Ripens "late summer to mid fall." [2]
CULTURE: "It prefers a moist soil and a sheltered situation." [2] However, the Florida Native Plant Society  tells us that it tolerates drought moderately well. [4]
HARDINESS: USDA zones 8A to 9B. [4] The Missouri Botanical Garden and North Carolina State University rank it cold hardy north into zone 3. [5] North "at least to zone 5." [7]
SOIL: Sand, loam. Likes acidic soil. [4] It likes well drained soil. [5] It prefers rich soil. [5]
LIGHT: "Full sun to partial shade." [5]
WATER: "Intolerant of prolonged dry conditions." [5]
PROPAGATION: Stratified seed. [4] "Collect from July to September when fruit has turned purple. Clean seeds from the pulp and keep in cold moist storage up to two years." [7] It can be grafted onto Ash (Fraxinus).
PRUNING: It "seldom needs pruning." [5]
PESTS: Trees in numerous states are, unfortunately, being infected by the Emerald Ash Borer. [2] "No serious insect or disease problems. Some susceptibility to scale and borers (particularly when grown in dry locations)." [5]
NOTE: Not salt tolerant. [4] "Tolerant of air pollution and adapts well to urban settings." [5] "It is probably best cultivated in areas that receive some protection from prevailing winds." [7]
SIMILAR SPECIES: The quite smaller Pygmy Fringetree, Chionanthus pygmaeus, is endemic to Florida.. 

More Details

Flowering Calendar

Flower Color
Flowering Type

Fruiting Calendar


Plant Form
Woody Deciduous Short-lived Perennial Understory Tree
36 feet
20 feet
Rate of Growth

Hardiness Zone
5a to 9b
Ease of growth
Part Sun Full Sun
6.5 - 7.5
10 feet

Sources for acquiring

Native plant nurseries. 
Florida Native Plant Society sales. 


[1] Atlas of Florida Plants 
[2] Wikipedia 
[3] Florida Ethnobotany 
[4] Florida Native Plant Society 
[5] Missouri Botanical Garden 
[6] North Carolina State University 
[7] Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (wildflower.org) 
Last Updated: March 13, 2019

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Also in Oleaceae
Osmanthus americanus