Photo courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden
Something About Lilac
The lilac is multi-stemmed (it suckers--sends up new stems from its roots), and it branches freely, so it has a twiggy canopy. Each main twig ends in a panicle (a cluster of flowers) that can be 7 inches long with over a hundred flowers. The flower count on one mature shrub is in the thousands.
The flower colors range from white to near-blue and deep purple. The old favorite ‘President Lincoln’ is blue, ‘Edith Cavell’ and ‘Beauty of Moscow’ are white. There are doubles (flowers that have extra petals) such as ‘Mme. Lemoine’ (white). There’s a highly-prized picotee called ‘Sensation’ (the flower petals are lilac edged with white). Yellow has not appeared (as it has not in magnolias), though some folks claim ‘Primrose’ and ‘White Swan’ are yellowish (the buds are yellowish but the flowers?).
The common lilac is one of the marker plants of the National Phenology Network, which gathers the observations of scientists, educators and volunteers to measure the effect of climate changes on the life cycles of plants. The observations include yearly events such as first leaf and first flower. Both are coming earlier for the lilac and the network’s other indicator plants. For a good introduction to phenology, why it matters, how to join in, see this video.
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