Pygmy Fringetree - Center For Plant Conservation
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Plant Profile

Pygmy Fringetree (Chionanthus pygmaeus)

These fragrant flowers have four short sepals and four long white petals that are all united at flower's base. Photo Credit: © 1991 Steve Shirah
  • Global Rank: G2 - Imperiled
  • Legal Status: Federally Endangered
  • Family: Oleaceae
  • State: FL
  • Nature Serve ID: 156325
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 06/18/1986
Description:

The Pygmy fringe tree is an endemic shrub native to the coarse, wind-deposited sands of central Florida. It is long-lived, and can persist in areas that are burned once every 20 to 70 years. This species depends on fire to maintain the open, sandy patches it requires. This fringetree has above-ground stems buried and growing from their rootstalks, which allows it to resprout after the occasional fire that burns through its habitat. (USFWS 1999) Much of this species' habitat has been lost due to land clearing for residential development and citrus production. As a result, Chionanthus pygmaeus, as well as a number of other plant species in the same habitat, was listed as federally endangered on January 21, 1987. (USFWS 1999) This small tree has many characteristics that make it unique, including pleasant-smelling white flowers. It is related to Asian and American fringe trees, which reach heights of 30 feet and are common in the horticulture trade. This fringe tree, aptly named the Pygmy fringe tree, shares all of characteristics of its larger relatives, but reaches only four feet in height. This is due to the fact that it is adapted to a harsh, dry environment.

Where is Pygmy Fringetree (Chionanthus pygmaeus) located in the wild?

Habitat:

The pygmy fringe tree is found primarily in sand pine (Pinus clausa) -scrub, sandhill, and intermediate habitats, high pineland and xeric hammocks. The major evergreen scrub oaks are myrtle oak (Quercus myrtifolia), Chapman oak (Quercus chapmanii), and sand live oak (Quercus geminata). Scrub vegetation is found along the Florida coasts and on the sand ridges of the interior of the Florida peninsula. The pygmy fringe tree also occurs in longleaf pine-turkey oak vegetation in a limited area west of Lake Apopka in Lake County. In Highlands and Polk Counties, this species also occurs in """"turkey oak barrens"""" that are intermediate between high pineland and scrub (USFWS 1999).Common woody plant associates include Quercus geminata, Q. chapmanii, Q. inopina, Q. myrtifolia, Ceratiola ericoides, Ilex opaca var. arenicola, Carya floridana, Serenoa repens, Sabal etonia, Lyonia ferruginea, etc. There may also be thin overstory of scattered Pinus clausa or P. elliottii (Kral 1983). Also found occasionally in longleaf pine-turkey oak vegetation, high pineland, dry hammocks, and transitional habitats (Martin 1987; USFWS 1989)

Distribution:

The pygmy fringe-tree is endemic to central Florida and occurs in Highlands, Hillsborough, Lake, Manatee, Osceola, Polk and Seminole Counties.

States & Provinces:

Pygmy Fringetree can be found in Florida

Which CPC Partners conserve Pygmy Fringetree (Chionanthus pygmaeus)?

CPC's Plant Sponsorship Program provides long term stewardship of rare plants in our National Collection. We are so grateful for all our donors who have made the Plant Sponsorship Program so successful. We are in the process of acknowledging all our wonderful plant sponsorship donors on our website. This is a work in progress and will be updated regularly.

Conservation Actions

Tina Stanley
  • 05/11/2023
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

According to a March 2023 extract of the Florida Plant Rescue Database, Bok Tower Gardens holds 14 accessions of Chionanthus pygmaeus totalling approximately 10574 seeds.

  • 09/03/2020
  • Propagation Research

Bok Tower Gardens has successfully germinated seeds from this species in a greenhouse setting, getting as much as 60 to 70 percent germination rates.

  • 09/03/2020
  • Demographic Research

Bea Pace at the TNC Tiger Creek site is monitoring this species. Jack Stout at UCF is monitoring at Tiger Creek or Saddle Blanket

  • 09/03/2020
  • Living Collection

The four plants in the Endangered Species Garden at Bok Tower Gardens (2 males, 2 females) bloomed and set seed in 1997

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

A Florida endemic that has a narrow geographic range and is restricted to scrub habitat, which is rapidly disappearing due to residential development and agriculture. Most sites have only a few individuals. The Florida Natural Areas Inventory's database currently contains 55 occurrence records, but many of the occurrences may no longer have suitable habitat.

Dorothy M. Brazis
  • 01/01/2010

The principal cause of its decline is residential development which results in loss of the unique habitat required by this species. The conversion of high pineland and scrub for agricultural purposes (principally citrus groves), and for commercial, resid

Dorothy M. Brazis
  • 01/01/2010

Although Florida Natural Areas Inventory lists 55 sites, many contain only a few individuals (NatureServe 2001). Only ten protected sites occur at Ferndale Ridge, Horse Creek Scrub, Eagle Lake, Hesperides, Lake Walk in Water, Sunray Hickory Lake, Avon Park Lake, Silver Lake, Carter Creek, and Flamingo Villas (FNAI 2001)Tiger Creek, Saddle Blanket Lakes and Lake Arbuckle sites in Highlands, Polk, Lake, Manatee, possibly Hillsborough counties

Dorothy M. Brazis
  • 01/01/2010

Bea Pace at the TNC Tiger Creek site is monitoring this species. Jack Stout at UCF is monitoring at Tiger Creek or Saddle Blanket. The four plants in the Endangered Species Garden at Bok Tower Gardens (2 males, 2 females) bloomed and set seed in 1997. Bok Tower Gardens has successfully germinated seeds from this species in a greenhouse setting, getting as much as 60 to 70 percent germination rates.

Dorothy M. Brazis
  • 01/01/2010

One location of this species occurs on land owned by The Nature Conservancy, and controlled burns were carried out in sections where C. pygmaeus is found during the spring and summer of 1997. The effects of different-timed burns on this species is being monitored. The effectiveness of other management techniques hasn't been explored for this species. (USFWS 1999)

Dorothy M. Brazis
  • 01/01/2010

1) Preservation of existing populations of Chionanthus pygmaeus, especially the Saddle Blanket Lakes Scrub in extreme southern Polk Co. as proposed by the FNAI to the state CARL Program (USFWS 1999). 2) Continue to determine appropriate management plans for Tiger Creek, including methods to thin the overstory and perform fire management. Continue to monitor the results. 3) Use field surveys to monitor known populations and search for new ones. 4) Research the life history of C. pygmaeus.

Dorothy M. Brazis
  • 01/01/2010

Maintain germplasm and conservation gardens.

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Nomenclature
Taxon Chionanthus pygmaeus
Authority Small
Family Oleaceae
CPC Number 915
ITIS 32949
USDA CHPY2
Common Names pygmy fringe tree | pygmy fringetree | pygmy fringe-tree
Associated Scientific Names Chionanthus pygmaeus
Distribution The pygmy fringe-tree is endemic to central Florida and occurs in Highlands, Hillsborough, Lake, Manatee, Osceola, Polk and Seminole Counties.
State Rank
State State Rank
Florida S2S3
Ecological Relationships

Pygmy fringetree seldom occurs as more than a small population on any given site. The scrub areas with the largest number of plants are located is fairly open and without an overstory canopy, as Chionanthus cannot tolerate heavy shade (unpublished FNAI data).This plant reproduces by root sprouts and, occasionally, by seed (Stout 2000). This species is similar to the widespread fringetree, Chionanthus virginicus, and the two have been reported to hybridize in cultivation, but not in the Pygmy fringetree's natural habitat. The two are distinct species, though (USFWS 1999).

Photos
Pollinators
Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID
Bees
Honey bees Apis mellifera Floral Visitor Link
Butterflies & Moths
Moths Suspected Pollinator Floral Link
Flies
Bee flies Exprosopa Floral Visitor Link

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