Garden Landscape Feature: The Fringe Tree

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The Old Man’s Beard

Near the end of the long line of spring bloomers, Old Man’s Beard, also known as a Fringe Tree, has begun to put on it’s show. The name sounds a bit absurd, but the softly fragrant white panicles of flowers do look somewhat like silky long whiskers.

By far the Fringe Tree is the most popular tree in our front yard. Whenever our neighbors walk by, they always stop and admire this unique tree. I have been interrupted several times during my weekly lawn chores by passersby asking me about our Fringe Tree.

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Chionanthus virginicus (aka White Fringe Tree, Grancy Gray Beard, or Old Man’s Beard) is a small tree or large shrub native to the southeastern U.S.  It’s cold tolerance (USDA zones 4-9); however, makes it a suitable accent tree almost anywhere.  It is also tolerant of a variety of soil types and sunlight exposure situations.  Ours grows in our sloped front yard, on heavy clay soil, in full Georgia sun and has thrived through multiple drought summers and a flood.  It is a slow grower, having attained seven feet tall and eight feet wide in eight growing seasons. Also, it has only fruited in one of those years, possibly due to a lack of pollenizers in the area. These trees are normally not self-fertile.

Old Man’s Beard is a good wildlife tree. When in flower, a number of pollinators are attracted to the flowers. We have even had hummingbirds feed on ours.  The fruit is attractive to birds as well.  In fall, the leaves turn yellow before dropping. It shows up well both in flower and in fall color against a an evergreen background.

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Although the Fringe Tree gets the most notice in the spring due to its unusual blossoms, it is a great tree to add to beauty to your landscape. We will update throughout the season with more photos to illustrate the Old Man’s Beard’s unique beauty. Meanwhile, gaze upon its loveliness in this pic! Happy Gardening!

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