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Chionanthus virginicus Linnaeus. Fringe-tree, Old Man's Beard. Phen: (Late Feb-) Apr-May; Jul-Sep. Hab: Dry, mesic, or wet forests and woodlands, granitic flatrocks and domes, glades and barrens over various rocks (including granite, greenstone, etc.), swamp forests in the Coastal Plain, tidal swamps, rarely pocosins. Dist: NJ, s. PA, s. OH, and MO south to c. peninsular FL and e. TX.

Origin/Endemic status: Endemic

Taxonomy Comments: C. virginicus in our area shows a diversity of morphology and correlated habitat that suggests the possible presence of two taxa. Swamp- and pocosin-inhabiting populations in the outer Coastal Plain have leaves 4-8× as long as wide and seem very different than Piedmont dry woodland populations with leaves 1-2× as long as wide; further and more careful study is needed. Chionanthus henryae H.L. Li was named to accommodate Coastal Plain populations from mainly dry sandy sites with “smaller leaves, which are more coriaceous, more smoothly surfaced, and with shorter petioles,” and smaller panicles, flowers, and bracts as well as abruptly blunt-tipped anthers (Li 1966).

Other Comments: C. virginicus is a traditional southern yard plant, often used as a ‘specimen plant’, very showy in spring, particularly when grown to its full size.

Synonymy: = Ar, C, Fl6, FNA, G, GW2, Il, K1, K3, K4, NE, NY, Pa, RAB, Tn, Va, W, WH3, Hardin (1974); = Chionanthus virginica – F, S, Tat, orthographic variant; > Chionanthus henryae H.L.Li; > Chionanthus virginica var. maritima Pursh – Tx; > Chionanthus virginica var. virginica – Tx

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Wetland Indicator Status:

  • Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plain: FACU
  • Eastern Mountains and Piedmont: FAC
  • Great Plains: FACU
  • Midwest: FAC
  • Northcentral & Northeast: FAC

Heliophily ?: 6

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image of plant© Gary P. Fleming | Original Image ⭷
image of plant© Keith Bradley | Original Image ⭷
image of plant© Gary P. Fleming | Original Image ⭷
image of plant© Alan Cressler: Chionanthus virginicus, Stone Mountain, Stone Mountain Park, Dekalb County, Georgia 3 by Alan Cressler source | Original Image ⭷
image of plant© Joey Shaw source | Original Image ⭷
image of plant© Scott Ward | Original Image ⭷
image of plant© Alan Cressler: Chionanthus virginicus, Stone Mountain, Stone Mountain Park, Dekalb County, Georgia 2 by Alan Cressler source | Original Image ⭷
image of plant© Joey Shaw source | Original Image ⭷
image of plant© Alan Cressler: chionanthus virginicus, stone mountain, stone mountain park, dekalb county, georgia 2 by Alan Cressler source | Original Image ⭷
image of plant© Bruce A. Sorrie | Original Image ⭷
image of plant© J.W. Hardin | Original Image ⭷

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