When selecting tree species for their landscapes, people are often searching for a tree with versatility... One that is magnificent all year long. On this quest, it's more common to find a great tree with aesthetic features that shine for just a season or two, whether through flowers, fruit, fall color, or winter interest. However, one tree with a consistent, year-round allure is the Chinese fringetree.
Chinese fringetree or Chionanthus retusus is native to China, Korea and Japan, but this tree also does very well in the Edmond area. With a mature height of only 15-20 feet tall, one won’t find it towering over other trees in the landscape… However, that’s not to say that it won’t stand out. In late spring to early summer, this beautiful ornamental produces showy white flowers at the ends of its branches, which also emanate a lovely fragrance. The female flowers will then give way to bluish-black, olive-like fruits that are about a half inch long and often attract a variety of birds. Once the flowers fade, one begins to notice the four inch long, ovate to elliptical, leathery leaves that are two-toned. The upper surface presents a bright green, while the underside shows a softer whitish-green color. As summer fades, so do the leaves of Chinese fringetree, but only for the better as their brilliant green leaves change to a bright yellow. Finally, once the leaves have fallen for the winter, the multi-stemmed trunk displays a distinct gray and brown bark for visual enjoyment through the winter months.
Similar to the native fringetree, Chionanthus virginicus, Chinese fringetree is a great species to incorporate into a landscape, regardless of the amount of space available. To view one in person, visit the specimen found on the west side of the Margaret Annis Boys Centennial Arboretum trail loop, in the area behind the park bench. The arboretum is located at the south end of Bickham-Rudkin Park.