Q. Is lilac native to the U.S.?
The lilac genus Syringa belongs to the olive family (Oleaceae) and consists of about thirty species of deciduous shrubs or trees native to Europe and temperate Asia. The name is derived from the Greek syrinx, meaning pipe. This reference is to the easily hollowed out stem of the plant. To most people lilacs mean fragrance, but not all the flowers have a scent.
The common lilac (Syringa vulgaris), that favorite of grandmother’s garden, is a native of southeastern Europe and hardy throughout New England. It’s described as a shrub or tree up to about 10 feet high with flowers from white to deep lilac. Sometimes called French lilacs because the earliest produced, many still among the finest, were hybridized in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in the nursery of the famous French plant breeder Victor Lemoine and his son Emile.
Another popular lilac is the early-flowering hyacinth lilac (Syringa x hyacinthiflora). This is a cross between the common lilac (Syringa vulgaris) and an Asian species (Syringa oblata) that flowers up to 10 days earlier than the common lilac. It looks very similar to the common lilac and has fragrant single or double flowers.
Courtesy of the NYBG Plant Information Service