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PlantFiles: Chinese Fringe Tree
Chionanthus retusus

Family: Oleaceae (oh-lee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Chionanthus (kye-oh-NAN-thus) (Info)
Species: retusus (re-TOO-sus) (Info)

4 vendors have this plant for sale.

9 members have or want this plant for trade.

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15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)

15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)

USDA Zone 3a: to -39.9 C (-40 F)
USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade
Light Shade


Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Late Winter/Early Spring

Good Fall Color

Other details:
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Provides winter interest

Soil pH requirements:
Unknown - Tell us

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
Unknown - Tell us

Seed Collecting:
Unknown - Tell us

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There are a total of 21 photos.
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8 positives
No neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive coriaceous On Feb 25, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

There's a magnificent specimen on Bussey Hill in the Arnold Arboretum, Boston, MA Z6a. It's a multistemmed tree with a graceful habit and a rounded crown, about 30' tall. Foliage and stems are medium-fine in texture.

Late to leaf out and bloom, about June 1. The clusters of white flowers are smaller individually than those of our native fringe tree, but they cover the tree just as thoroughly. Outstanding in bloom.

I've seen regular crops of the ornamental blue fruit, though I've seen no other fringe trees nearby. I've even seen one or two self-sown seedlings. I've read that some individuals are polygamo-dioecious (have flowers mainly of one sex but a few perfect flowers as well).

The fall color is yellow and not outstanding by New England standards.

Dirr gives the northern limit of its hardiness as Z (5)6, which is supported by the Zipcode data below.

Positive reeCreations On Aug 17, 2013, reeCreations from Burgettstown, PA wrote:

the fringe tree i have is a survivor! i first saw it behind a funeral home in pittsburgh, pa. i saved it when it was being dug up to be replaced by a parking lot. planted it in the back yard. replanted it when i moved to a rural setting a half hour west . then, 5 yrs later, transplanted it again to a location a little north of that - in appalling soil. I had to dig out the stump and roots of a dead ash to plant it so that it would be in full sun. (this soil is so bad, that when the new sewer system was installed the contractor brought in other soil because the clay and rock would be too hard to put back in!) there it has been for 9 yrs, blooming every spring when i revel in it's perfume for 2 or more weeks. it has never set fruit for unknown reasons.
all tolled, i believe this tree to be over 20 yrs old, because that's how long I've had it and it was probably 5 or 6 yrs old when i first acquired it. it is about 15 ft high with the branches filling out to a perimeter of 30+ ft. and has never been any sort of problem. unfortunately, it may be waning since the leaves are not as large as they used to be. i will surely miss it if it goes before i do!

Positive aussieupover On Apr 29, 2012, aussieupover from Wekiva Springs, FL wrote:

I love this tree. I purchased one online and had it shipped from up north. It has been growing beautiful here in central florida for almost 2 years now. Flowered first spring when it was only 6 months in the ground and about 3 foot tall. It is now about 10 ft. All that see her in flower admire her and wonder what she is.

Positive b_bruce On Apr 11, 2010, b_bruce from Iron Station, NC wrote:

I am in Iron Station N.C. and was in my back yard one day 2 years and smelled this sweet aroma, I traced it down to 3 small trees just in side the wood line, they had the little white star shaped flowers and smelled so sweet. I dug 2 up and planted them in the yard, I have 2 years trying to find out what they were, now I know.They are growing good and have bloomed the last 2 years and are starting this year already. Any tips on how to take care of them are warmly welcomed. I will continue to read posts on them.

Positive DAMNATHAN On Nov 24, 2009, DAMNATHAN from Chapel Hill, NC wrote:

This beautifully complex & seasonally ornate, aesthetically pleasurable botanical gift resides outside the front door of my townhouse. I have observed that, among several unique traits, that it deciduously sheds it's leaves after all other trees in the region. It stands alone literally & in several ways. Currently it is starting to shed, but does so metachronously, staggered but not necessarily predictably based on positional or aerial sequence. As leaves are falling, a berry forms, becomes tumescent & assumes the size of a blueberry replete with indelible ink-like juice which falls to the ground, & if stepped on, will stain sole of shoe & walkway, in my case. It's shape is oval, not globoid like a blueberry. I noted 20-30 finches, of the same species & subtype (birds of a feather flock, but also dine on ilk dietary target, together). I have not seen said finches as part of the local gentry or local avian residential population, of which there are several other species of birds & their nests in other nearby arborial structures. These finches feed on this berry. It is relatively, if not outright, sub-species specific from a dietary standpoint. One wonders if the digestive enzymes incapacitates the presumptive seeds inside the berry structure, or, if not, as in other notable examples of symbiosis & bilateral mutually beneficial maneuvers between xenobiotics, defecation of the uric acid paste deposit randomly disperses & disseminates seeds for expectant germination. Only problem is, there are no other neophytes in the area. I understand it is a fastidious species, & not being indiginous to these here parts (sorry, I'm from N.C.- actually, I'm not sorry at all), may not be conducive to German-nation (hah-hah) b/c of suboptimal soil, pH or other milieu, versus pollination by the arthropodial vector(s). Visually arresting but wonderfully intriguing & perplexing. Proud to pontificate & wax philosophic on the subject matter. I amsk what I amsk, like a good friend once told me. A-cah-cah-cah-cah-cah-cah!!!!!

Positive greatswede On Aug 26, 2009, greatswede from Lincoln, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

This Chinese Fringe tree is doing quite well in my backyard with a western exposure and in heavy clay soil. It's irrigated by a drip system.

The flowering in spring is fantastic! Also, it is a low maintenance tree. No leaf burn or insect damage. It's a great tree but am surprised at it's growth pattern. It seems to be goblet shaped instead of umbrella.

Positive LiliMerci On Dec 15, 2007, LiliMerci from North of Atlanta, GA (Zone 8a) wrote:

10 years? I bought mine last year while visiting Callaway Gardens. Thought it was an unusual tree.

Positive ladyannne On Sep 13, 2004, ladyannne from Merced, CA (Zone 9a) wrote:

This is the corner delight in our shady area, tall and incredibly graceful. The white fringe flowers are like a sprinkling of snow. The leaves are a fall high light, turning brilliant yellow.

You need a male and a female for it to produces olive shape and sized fruit which the birds love.

Very slow growing, never needs pruning.

Reportedly, new trees can require ten years to the first bloom.


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

Hazel Green, Alabama
Mobile, Alabama
Calabasas, California
Lincoln, California
Lodi, California
Merced, California
Rio Linda, California
Jacksonville, Florida
Longwood, Florida
Miccosukee Cpo, Florida
Athens, Georgia
Byron, Georgia
Cumming, Georgia
Norcross, Georgia
Savannah, Georgia
Clermont, Kentucky
Georgetown, Kentucky
Lexington, Kentucky
Louisville, Kentucky
Baton Rouge, Louisiana (2 reports)
New Orleans, Louisiana
York, Maine
Brookeville, Maryland
Roslindale, Massachusetts
Pinckney, Michigan
Stirling, New Jersey
New York City, New York
Rochester, New York
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Clayton, North Carolina
Iron Station, North Carolina
Raleigh, North Carolina (2 reports)
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
Burgettstown, Pennsylvania
Florence, South Carolina
Greer, South Carolina
New Ellenton, South Carolina
Arlington, Tennessee
Bryan, Texas
Crosby, Texas
Houston, Texas
Thornton, Texas
Mechanicsville, Virginia

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