Syringa vulgaris L.

Common Lilac

Deciduous shrub or small tree to 5 m or so tall. New growth green and hairless. Leaves ovate, heart-shaped, to 12 cm or so long and nearly as wide, the base more or less cordate. Flower clusters to 20 cm or so long, more in some cultivars. Flower tube 8-12 mm or so long, the lobes concave, extremely fragrant.

Montane SE Europe

Stems with pith removed are used as pipes.

Cultivars: Cultivars have been selected and bred from this species since ancient times, although breeding has been the most intensive in the last 100 years or so. Victor Lemoine (1823-1911) of Nancy, France, was a prominent early breeder, followed by his son Émile (1862-1943), and many of their cultivars have persisted to the present day.The Lemoines were followed by other breeders in Germany and Belgium and, in more recent times, the USA. Breeding and selection has concentrated on flower and bud colour, cluster size and orientation, and flowering time, with cultivars of S. vulgaris being most numerous, followed by hybrids (and their cultivars) of this species with S. oblata as S. ×hyacinthiflora. Later hybrids have involved species in a different section of the genus (section Villosae). Many of these cultivars were produced in Canada, based on S. josikaea, S. villosa and S. reflexa, while others produced crosses including S. ×prestoniae McKelv.

Source: Spencer, R. (2002). Oleaceae. In: Spencer, R.. Horticultural Flora of South-eastern Australia. Volume 4. Flowering plants. Dicotyledons. Part 3. The identification of garden and cultivated plants. University of New South Wales Press.

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Distribution map

Syringa vulgaris 'Belle De Nancy'

Flowers lilac-pink fading to bluish mauve, in long, narrow clusters.

Lemoine, 1891.

Syringa vulgaris 'Charles Joly'

Flower clusters compact and dense. Flowers large, double, reddish purple with a pale reverse, giving a two-tone appearance.

Lemoine, 1896.

Syringa vulgaris 'Congo'

Flower clusters compact but open. Flowers large, purplish red, petals pale on reverse, deep purplish red in bud.

Lemoine, 1896.

Syringa vulgaris 'Hugo Koster'

Flower clusters loose, conical. Flowers small, prolific, lilac.

Koster, 1914.

Syringa vulgaris 'Jan Van Tol'

Flower clusters drooping. Flowers white, the lobes narrow and well spaced.

A cross of 'Marie Legraye' and 'Madame Lemoine' by Van Tol, Boskoop, Holland, c. 1916.

Syringa vulgaris 'Katherine Havemeyer'

Flower clusters medium to large, broadly conical. Flowers semi-double to double, lilac with some pink and a purplish pink reverse, fading.

Lemoine, 1922.

Syringa vulgaris 'Madame Casimir Perier'

Flowers creamy in bud, opening to pure white, double.

Lemoine, 1894.

Syringa vulgaris 'Madame Lemoine'

Flower clusters erect, compact. Flowers white, double hose-inhose.

Raised by Lemoine, 1890, as a seedling of 'Marie Legraye' crossed with a double lilac.

Syringa vulgaris 'Marceau'

Flowers single, large, deep reddish.

Lemoine, 1913.

Syringa vulgaris 'Masséna'

Low-growing, spreading shrub. Flower clusters broad at the base. Flowers large, dark purple with strongly concave lobes.

Lemoine, 1923.

Syringa vulgaris 'Michele Buchner'

Flower clusters long and narrow. Flowers 3, hose-in-hose, roselilac with a white throat.

Lemoine, 1885.

Syringa vulgaris 'Miss Ellen Wilmot'

Flowers large, white. Late-flowering.

Lemoine, 1903.

Syringa vulgaris 'Mrs Edward Harding'

Flower clusters large and broad at the base. Flowers semidouble or double, with long, narrow incurved lobes, pale purplish red fading to purple-pink.


Syringa vulgaris 'Negro'

Flowers single, dark.

Lemoine, 1899.

Syringa vulgaris 'Olivier De Serres'

Flower clusters large. Flowers large with broad outer and narrow, incurved inner lobes, lavender blue, darker in bud.

Lemoine, 1909.

Syringa vulgaris 'Paul Thirion'

Flower clusters large, dense and broad, more or less hemispherical. Flowers large, with a 2-layered corolla, purplish red, darker in bud, fading to lilacpink. Late-flowering.

Lemoine, 1915.

Syringa vulgaris 'Primrose'

Flowers pale primrose yellow, single. Buds greenish yellow.

The first significant yellow cultivar, produced by D.E.Maarse, Aalsmeer, Holland in 1949, as a sport of 'Marie Legraye'.

Syringa vulgaris 'Président Grévy'

Flower clusters large and conical, loose. Flowers large, semi- to fully double, cobalt blue with lilac centre and pale margins, buds red-violet.

Lemoine, 1886.

Syringa vulgaris 'Réaumur'

Flower clusters long and wide. Flowers large, deep reddish purple. Late flowering.

Lemoine, 1904.

Syringa vulgaris 'Sensation'

Flower clusters long. Flowers purplish red with broad, pale margins.

Raised by D.E. Maarse, Aalsmeer, Holland in 1938 as a sport of 'Hugo de Vries'.

Syringa vulgaris 'Volcan'

Flower clusters long and open. Individual flowers large and conspicuously hooked, deep purplish red.

Lemoine, 1899.

kingdom Plantae
phylum   Tracheophyta
class    Magnoliopsida
superorder     Asteranae
order      Lamiales
family       Oleaceae
genus        Syringa L.