Chionanthus virginicus; Oleaceae
Like buttonbush and American bladdernut, fringetree is one of those natives that’s fairly common but that you’ll seldom notice, until you see it in bloom. It’s a spectacular sight, with big clusters of flowers (each with petals up to an inch long) hanging from the branches.
I have never been able to get a picture of an entire specimen, or even a large portion of one, because I can never see the whole thing. Fringetrees grow in the understory, and in the Carderock area, at least (where there are dozens of them), they’re always mixed up with the larger trees. They typically stand 10 to 20 feet tall, but in a cultivated landscape can grow taller. They’re native to the southeastern US, where they prefer damp woods, thickets, and bluffs (like Carderock).
If you go looking for them, keep your nose open. Every time, I smell them before I see them. The scent is lovely.