Arboretum: Chionanthus retusus, Chinese fringetree
This plant can be grown as a large multi-stemmed shrub or pruned into a small tree. Its spreading and rounded outline will reach 15 to 25 feet high in cultivation.
The narrowly elliptical to oblong leaves are leathery, shiny and more robust than our native fringetree, Chionanthus virginicus. It also differs from our native tree in that the white panicles of flowers are more abundant and appear at the tips of the new branches in late May in our Zone 6b. They have a slightly sweet fragrance, and the tree tends to flower more heavily in alternate years.
The fruit in the fall is a ½-inch long dark blue drupe and appears only one the female plants. Chionanthus retusus was introduced in the mid-19th century by plant explorers in China, Korea and Japan.