Chinese fringetrees were a common sight in Madison Square Park up until the 1970s. Specimens like this one are now being replanted to honor the park’s historic layout. This tree is a variety known as the ‘Tokyo Tower’, named for its narrow upright branches which form a columnar shape.
They are natives of China, Korea, and Japan, growing from 12 to 15 feet tall. They bloom with fragrant white flower clusters that appear in the spring-like a narrow wall of clouds. Male flowers are slightly showier, while fertilized female flowers give way to olive-shaped fruits which ripen to a lovely bluish-purple in late summer. Their leathery green foliage turns yellow in the fall, and contrasts beautifully with their purple berries. While the tree’s exfoliating cinnamon and gray bark provides a welcome distraction in the winter landscape.