Tree Lilac – July Tree of the Month

by Ann Farnham

treelilacThe beautiful tree (or large shrub) chosen by the Ewing Township Environmental Commission this month is a native of Eastern Asia and was introduced to the United States in 1876. It is hardy to USDA zones 4-7A (Ewing is zone 6b) and now has a range from the northeastern United States to eastern Washington, Oregon, and California south to northern Texas.

Among the trees which bloom in June and July, the Tree Lilac, (Syringa reticulata) becomes covered in heavily scented, showy, creamy white flowers in 6-10” panicles which last about two weeks. The leaves are dark green, but develop no fall color. They are arranged opposite on the stems, have an oval shape, and a smooth edge. The bark is reddish-brown. This tree/shrub is available as a single-trunked or multi-trunked plant.

These trees can reach 20-30’ in height, and 15-25’ in spread. The branches are stiff and spreading and become arching with time. The habit is upright.

This is said to be the most trouble-free lilac; it has a few minor diseases or insects to worry about, but the pest list is not short. It is, however, resistant to mildew, scale and borers. A favorable site and good maintenance usually keep trouble under control.

The Tree Lilac prefers loose, well-drained, slightly acid soil, and full sun. Good air circulation and cool summers are helpful, but it is said to be fairly tolerant of air pollution and other adverse conditions. The tree can be “rejuvenated” by being cut to the ground and allowed to start over.

This is a fine specimen tree in the garden, and it is very effective in groups or near buildings. Its relatively small size and medium growth rate have also made it a useful street tree under overhead wires.

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