Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Pygmy Fringetree
Chionanthus pygmaeus

Family: Oleaceae (oh-lee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Chionanthus (kye-oh-NAN-thus) (Info)
Species: pygmaeus (pig-MAY-us) (Info)

6 members have or want this plant for trade.


4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)
6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)
8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)
10-12 ft. (3-3.6 m)

8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun


Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Late Winter/Early Spring


Other details:
Flowers are fragrant
This plant may be considered a protected species; check before digging or gathering seeds

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From softwood cuttings
From semi-hardwood cuttings
From hardwood cuttings
By air layering

Seed Collecting:
Unknown - Tell us

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5 positives
No neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive gtbabic On Nov 1, 2013, gtbabic from The Villages, FL wrote:

This is an endangered FL native and if you do get one (or are lucky enough to have one already) it is worthwhile spending the extra effort to keep it going. I had two - one in a well-watered garden site is doing well, one in a dry location did not survive. The plant has a beautiful display of wispy white fringed flowers for about two or three weeks in spring. After that, it is simply a fair-looking shrub which holds its leaves until frost. As a native, no frost protection is required and I have had no pest issues. I note that someone else called it a "small tree" but mine is 5+ years old and is three feet tall with no indication it is going to get much bigger.

Positive Stribling On Sep 3, 2003, Stribling from Thomasville, GA wrote:

I have a "Pygmy Fringetree" on my gulf property in northcentral Florida (U.S.) It was there when we purchased lot eight years ago and has survived drought and salt water which occasionally washes over it when the storms surge.

It was in full, beautiful, fluffy white bloom this spring. I fertilized it and it has started to really take off. It was scruffy looking and we almost cut it down - I am very glad to know what it is.

Positive suncatcheracres On Aug 18, 2003, suncatcheracres from Old Town, FL wrote:

Rufino Osorio's excellent book A Gardener's Guide to Florida's Native Plants states that although scrub plants are generally very difficult to grow in an average garden, this little plant adapts quite well to a garden as long as it is given well-drained soil and some bright light.

I have grown C. virginicus, (aka "White Fringe Tree", or "Grancy Greybeard" as my mother called it) in the Atlanta, Georgia area, and a mature specimen is a spectacular sight in full bloom. It prefers a much wetter site than the "Pygmy Fringetree" and grows to a much larger size, although still a small yard tree. So if you can't grow one, try the other. Both are hard to find and are quite expensive to buy, but are worth it.

Positive xyris On Aug 17, 2003, xyris from Sebring, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

I did not plant my specimens of Chionanthus pygmaeus, they were already growing natively in a vacant lot next to my house - and I bought the lot! I have cleared out competing vegetation and vines from around the plants, and they put on a dazzling display of white fringe in late March.

The leaves are a glossy dark green, smaller and more leathery than C. virginicus. I do not know if C. pygmaeus is available commercially, but it would make a good shrub for partially shaded central Florida (U.S.) dry, sandy sites.

Positive ButterflyGardnr On Jan 9, 2003, ButterflyGardnr from Orlando, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

This large shrub/small tree produces beautiful, fragrant white clusters of flowers in the spring. It makes a great specimen plant. It is an endangered endemic that grows only in the Florida scrub. It requires VERY well-drained soil and full sun in order to thrive. Chionanthus virginicus ("Fringe Tree") is much more common in cultivation and prefers more moisture, adapting well to the landscape. Both species produce small purplish/black fruits that are relished by birds and other wildlife.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Lady Lake, Florida
Sarasota, Florida
Sebring, Florida

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