Fringe Tree is native to the Eastern States of North America, from Pennsylvania, all the way down to the Gulf Coast. Small in stature, yet striking in appearance, especially in spring, when it is covered in delicate white flowers that vaguely resemble Snowdrops. Male and female flowers occur on different trees, but the flowers look very similar. Fringe Trees belongs to the Olive family and it comes as no surprising that in the autumn the female tree bears olive-like fruit that are greatly appreciated by birds. The tree was first described by John Bannister (1650-1652), a cleric/ naturalist, who explored the Virginia colony in 1678. Despite the fact that Thomas Jefferson, then living in France, imported seeds so that he could impress his Parisian associates with the showy beauty of the Fringe Tree, it is still not common in our gardens.
Native Americans used a decoction of the bark to treat inflammation of the eyes, stomatitis, and gingivitis. The Choctow Indians used it for treating cuts and bruises. The bark has also been used for treating toothache. The eclectics valued its alterative tonic. properties. The bark is very bitter, which indicates it for conditions of the liver and gall bladder. It is considered a specific for jaundice and liverish headaches and is said to thin bile and gradually dissolve gallbladder stones. However, these uses have not been verified by modern science. Its ability to reduce sugar excretion in the urine and an effect on the spleen are being investigated.
Nothing is known of the Native American sacred or ritual use of this plant. Its medicinal properties and physical characteristics suggest it as a plant of Jupiter. The bark may be used in incense blends.