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Henry Compton, Lord Bishop of London, appointed cleric and naturalist, John Bannister (1650-1692), to explore the flora of the Virginia colony in 1678. Among the many North American natives described by Bannister was the Fringe Tree (Chionanthus virginicus) or Old Man's Beard. In 1786, Thomas Jefferson, then living in France, wrote Philadelphia botanist John Bartram, Jr., for seeds of this showy, spring flowering tree to share with his Parisian friends. Its delicate, fragrant, white blossoms bloom in late spring and are followed by blue berries.