Graybeard? Yes, I can relate.
There are some pretty spectacle trees in full bloom. Some are common; some more hard to find. One native small tree in full flower at the nature center looks like it's suddenly grown grandpa Caleb's billowy white beard; some of the regional names for the tree are old man's beard, Grancy graybeard and granddaddy's graybeard. OK. The flowers are white not gray, but they are beard-like. (I wonder who was Grancy?)
Today, the more accepted name is white fringe tree. That's a shame. I rather like all those references to grandpa's beard. I'm not a grandfather, heck, I’m not even paterfamilias, but I do have a beard that is rapidly turning gray. Yet, comparing the flamboyant tree to something as banal as a scratchy old beard does do it an injustice. Its generic name Chionanthus comes from the Greek words meaning "snow flower." Yes, that's better.
Fringe tree is dioecious, meaning that there are both male and female trees. (Let's hope they live near one another.) The males are flashier when in bloom due to their longer petals. In early May, panicles of creamy white fragrant flowers dangle from the tree's branches, giving them a fringy, fluffy appearance. In late summer, the female fringes are covered with dark blue berries, so somewhere along the line the genders are able to do more than trade faraway looks.
- Photo taken at Ijams Nature Center