Content Detail

Fringe tree grows as either a wide-spreading, multi-stemmed shrub or a small tree. Useful in native woodland gardens, as a specimen plant, in groups, borders, or near large buildings. The fringe tree’s most outstanding feature is the fragrant, strap-like, white flowers that are borne in 6 to 8 inch long fleecy panicles in late May to early June.

  • Family (English) Olive
  • Family (botanic) Oleaceae
  • Planting site Residential and parks, Under utility lines
  • Tree or plant type Tree, Shrub
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale North America
  • Size range Large shrub (more than 8 feet), Compact tree (10-15 feet), Small tree (15-25 feet)
  • Mature height 12-20 feet
  • Mature width 12-20 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Acid soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances clay soil, Road salt
  • Season of interest late spring, early summer, early fall, mid fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Fragrant, White
  • Shape or form Multi-stemmed, Oval, Round
  • Growth rate Slow
  • Transplants well No
  • Planting considerations May be difficult to find in nurseries
  • Wildlife Birds
  • Has cultivars Yes
  • More information


Native geographic location and habitat:

Native to the southeastern United States.

Bark color and texture:

Bark is light gray-brown and slightly ridged.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:

Leaves are late to emerge in spring and are simple, opposite, and narrow to elliptical. Leaves grow 3 to 8 inches long and have entire margins. They are lustrous medium green with a paler underside and turn yellow in the fall.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Flowers are fleecy, 6 to 8 inch clusters (panicles) of  strap-like, four-petaled white flowers resembling an old man’s beard, and dioecious (separate male and female plants).  Male flowers are showier than female flowers. Flowers on the previous year’s wood.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

Only female plants bear ½ inch long, bluish fruit, which ripens in September.

Plant care:

In landscape situations Fringe tree is typically a shrub growing 12 to 20 feet high, but as a tree it can reach 30 feet high and wide. It is tolerant of wind and air pollution, best grown in well-drained soil, and in full sun to part shade. It prefers moist, fertile soils and seldom needs pruning.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

There are no common serious problems for this plant, and it is resistant to black walnut toxicity.


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