Chionanthus virginicus

2009 – Fringetree

The fringetree is a small tree or shrub ranging in height from 12 to 20 feet with an equal spread. The common name refers to the slightly fragrant, spring-blooming flowers which feature drooping clusters (4-6” long) of fringe-like, creamy white petals that appear from May to June. It is dioecious (meaning separate male and female plants) and the male flowers are the showiest. The flowers give way to clusters of olive-like fruits which ripen to a dark, bluish black color in late summer and become a food source for birds and other wildlife. The wide, spear-shaped leaves turn yellow in the fall.

Fringetree grows in moist, fertile soils across hardiness zones 3 to 9. It is best planted as a front lawn specimen or as a shrub or woodland borders. It is also tolerant of pollution and adapts well to urban settings in both full sun and partial shade. The fringetree is terrific in native plant gardens or near streams. In all cases, it is spectacular in full bloom.

Euonymus americanus

2009 – Strawberry Bush

The strawberry bush is a fairly uncommon native shrub most noted for its bumpy, raspberry-red seed pods that hang on the ends of the stems and open to reveal smooth, orange seeds.  Other striking features are its green bark and acute branching angles that provides interest throughout the year.  Strawberry bush grows 6 to 8 feet in ten years and its habit is loose and open becoming fuller with pruning and exposure to the sun.  They make wonderful woodland plants as they thrive naturally along shaded streams, in river bottoms or in moist open woods across the eastern U.S.

It has been reported that the bark and fruits are very toxic and should not be eaten.  Despite its potential danger, Native Americans once used the roots to make a tea for stomach and urinary problems.  Wild turkeys, wood thrushes, eastern bluebirds, yellow-rumped warblers, and northern mockingbirds consume and disseminate the seeds.

Adiantum pedatum

2009 – Northern Maidenhair Fern

The maidenhair fern is a finely-textured, somewhat frilly fern that has curved stalks covered with finger-like projections.  They grow to a height of 1 to 2.5 feet in part to full shade which makes them perfect for shaded borders, woodland gardens, or shaded rock gardens.  They can grow in sunnier locations, but high summer heat may cause the fronds to brown, particularly if good soil moisture is not maintained.  Like many ferns, the maidenhair fern prefers moist, acidic soils and spreads slowly to form large colonies over time.

They have water-repelling compounds on the foliage with the result that water runs off the leaves, and even when the plant is immersed in water, the leaves remain dry.  This strong water repelling property is the scientific basis for the botanical name Adiantum, translated as “unwetted”.