Herb: Fringe Tree

Latin name: Chionanthus virginicus

Family: Oleaceae (Olive Family)

Medicinal use of Fringe Tree:

The fringe tree was commonly used by the North American Indians and European settlers alike to treat inflammations of the eye, mouth ulcers and spongy gums. In modern herbalism it is considered to be one of the most reliable remedies for disorders of the liver and gall bladder. The dried root bark is alterative, aperient, cholagogue, diuretic, febrifuge and tonic. It is used in the treatment of gallbladder pain, gallstones, jaundice and chronic weakness. A tincture of the bark was once widely used internally in the treatment of hypertrophy of the liver, jaundice, bilious headache, gallstones, rheumatism etc. The root bark also appears to strengthen function in the pancreas and spleen whilst anecdotal evidence indicates that it may substantially reduce sugar levels in the urine. Fringe tree also stimulates the appetite and digestion and is an excellent remedy for chronic illness, especially where the liver has been affected. A tea or a poultice can be made from the root bark for external use as a wash for wounds, inflammations, sores, infections etc. The roots can be harvested at any time of the year, the bark is peeled from them and is then dried for later use.

Description of the plant:


5 m
(16 feet)



Habitat of the herb:

Rich moist soils by the edges of streams and in damp woods and scrub.

Edible parts of Fringe Tree:

Fruit - used as a pickle like olives. The fruit is up to 18mm long, it has a thin pulp and contains 1 - 3 rounded seeds.

Other uses of the herb:

Wood - hard, heavy, close grained, weighing about 39lb per cubic foot. Of no commercial value because of the small size of the tree.

Propagation of Fringe Tree:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Germination is usually good. Stored seed can be sown in February or March in a warm greenhouse according to one report but germination can them take 18 months at 15 - 20C. Alternatively the stored seed can be pre-soaked for 2 - 3 hours in warm water and then given 3 months warm stratification followed by 3 months at 2 - 4C. Germination can then be fairly rapid. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a greenhouse or cold frame. Plant them out into their permanent positions the following spring or early summer. Layering in early summer as soon as new growth is long enough. Takes 15 months. Layering can also be carried out in spring or autumn.

Cultivation of the herb:

Rich moist soils by the edges of streams and in damp woods and scrub.

Known hazards of Chionanthus virginicus:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.