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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Chionanthus

Which varieties of fringe tree have glossy leaves? I am especially interested in a comparison between C. virginicus and C. retusus.


More than one variety of fringe tree (Chionanthus) is described as having lustrous leaves. According to Michael Dirr's Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs(Timber Press, 1997), Chionanthus retusus has "3- to 8-inch long, lustrous dark green leaves," while C. virginicus has "3- to 8-inch long leaves [which] vary from medium to dark green, with various degrees of gloss."

If you wish to see images, you can search Google images with the different species names. Oregon State University's online guide to Landscape Plants has good detailed images and descriptions of these two species of Chionanthus.

Date 2017-04-14
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Chionanthus, Flowering of plants

Chionanthus virginicus--at what time can this tree be expected to bloom? And how does it do in the Pacific Northwest? Does this tree needs to reach a certain age or maturity before it blooms--similar to Cornus kousa or some magnolias? Or could it be a cultural problem that keeps it from blooming? Mine is in full sun, moist/fertile soil. It's been there 3 years and is probably 6 feet tall and over 5 years old (purchased balled and burlapped). Could it be getting too much nitrogen, as it is on the edge of the lawn?


According to local author Arthur Lee Jacobson's book, North American Landscape Trees (Ten Speed Press, 1996), Chionanthus virginicus blooms between May and July, depending on the year and the latitude. Male and female flowers are on separate trees, and male flowers are more showy. Sunset Western Garden Book also says that this tree flowers here in late spring to early summer. Here is what Oregon State University's web site of Landscape Plants says:

  • "Deciduous, large shrub or small tree, spreading, open, 12-20 ft (4-6 m) tall with an equal spread, larger in the wild. Leaves simple, opposite, sub-opposite, narrow-elliptic to oblong or obovate-oblong, 7.5-20 cm long, acute to acuminate, margin entire, glossy dark green above, underside paler and pubescent, at least on veins. Dioecious - male and female plants, but some have perfect flowers. White flowers showy, in fleecy, soft clusters in late spring. Fruit about 13 mm long, egg-shaped, dark blue in late summer.
  • Sun to partial shade. Adaptable but does best in moist, fertile, acid soils. Slow growing. Male trees reportedly have showier flowers."

There are a number of reasons why your tree has not flowered. According to The Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs, flowers are not seen on young trees (no specifics as to age of maturity, unfortunately). University of Maryland Extension indicates other reasons plants fail to flower.

The full sun and moist soil sound like ideal conditions. It is quite possible that nitrogen-heavy fertilizer could contribute to the lack of flowers. You might consider applying compost to your lawn for nutrients instead of whatever you may have been using. Perhaps you could avoid using the fertilizer and give the tree at least another year to adjust and attempt to flower.

Date 2017-07-18
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August 01 2017 12:36:01