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Chionanthus retusus Lindl. et Paxton  In Japanese, the tree is called Hitotubatago (alternatively, Nanjya-monjya which means name-cannot-be-specified). 

A deciduous tree of the Oleaceae family that is becoming popular at nurseries and in foundation plantings for residence gardens.

 This pure 4-petaled white flower, hitotsubatago, is also called “umi-terashi” (sea shine) because on moonlit nights the image of the blossoms covering the tree canopy is mirrored beautifully by the sea. It blooms in profusion in the early part of May each year on the mountains facing the Waninoura fishing port the community near the national border on the northern side of Tsushima Island.

Originally from the Korean continent it is important evidence that Tsushima was once part of the mainland continent. The tree grows naturally in the Kiso River delta and Waniura bay areas, and was designated a National Natural Memorial Object.


Distribution: Warm climates in China, the Korean Peninsula, and Taiwan. Some reach a diameter of 70 centimeters and a height of 30 meters. In Japan they grow in parts of the Chubu district and on Tsushima. This native plant of Japan now grows only in damp mountainsides and can still be seen only in a few places in the Tokai-Area (Gifu, Aichi-pref). Some “Nanjya-monjya” colonies have been designated a special natural treasure. This is the snowiest tree you’ll ever see. It is hard to think of a more beautiful, small, 20-foot-tall tree than Chinese Fringetree when it is in full bloom. The pure white, fragrant flowers, hang in four-inch-long, spectacular terminal panicles which appear to cover the tree with snowy white cotton for two to three weeks.

Note: Trees called “Nanjya-monja”. It is said that not only the Chionanthus retusus Lindl. et Paxton but rare trees with unknown names in various locations in Japan were once known and described in that way

Flowers emerge at the terminal end of the spring shoot growth flush. This differs from the native Fringetree which flowers before leaves emerge. As with other white-flowered trees, Chinese Fringetree looks best when viewed against a dark background. Female plants develop purple/blue fruits which are highly prized by many birds. Fall color is yellow in northern climates, but is often an unnoticed brown in the south, with many leaves dropping to the ground a blackened green. The flowers can be forced into early bloom indoors. The blue fruit is produced on female plants (Vis. 2). The bark is also ornamental and provides winter interest. Ideal as a shade tree or as a specimen planting, this species thrives in fertile, well drained but moisture-retentive soil. Its natural distribution is China, Korea and Japan where it occurs in forests and on cliffs. Chinese Fringe Tree grows best in a sunny location. The white flowers (Vis. 1) appear in late spring
or early summer. Chinese Fringe Tree blooms (Vis. 3) later than C. virginicus but may not be as hardy.

W. J. Bean in ‘Trees and Shrubs hardy in the British Isles’ records the ‘dome of soft, fleecy snow’ description and attributes it to a traveller in China.



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