This shrub is 8-20' tall, sending up multiple branching stems that form
a vase-shaped crown. Stems at the base of this shrub are up to 8"
across. The bark of large old stems is gray to gray-brown, somewhat
rough-textured, slightly shredded, and sometimes shallowly furrowed.
The bark of young stems is gray to brown and smooth, while new
shoots are green and glabrous. Pairs of
opposite leaves occur
along the young stems and shoots. Individual leaves are 2-5"
and 1½-3½" across; they are cordate to ovate and smooth along their
margins. The upper leaf surface is yellowish green to dark green and
hairless, while the lower surface is pale green and hairless. The
slender petioles are ½-1½" long, light green, and
glabrous. Elongated panicles of
flowers about 3-7" long develop from the stems of the preceding year.
The panicles taper gradually toward their apices and they are ascending
to erect. Individual flowers are about 1/4" across and 1/3" long,
consisting of a narrowly tubular corolla with 4 spreading lobes, a
short tubular calyx with 4 teeth, a pistil with a single style, and 2 inserted stamens. On different shrubs, the corollas can
be purple, lavender, light blue, pink, or white, although lavender is
the most common color. The branches of each panicle are
light green and glabrous.
The blooming period occurs during late spring
for about 2-3 weeks. The flowers are very fragrant. Fertile flowers are
replaced by ellipsoid seed capsules about ½" long; the capsules are
initially green, but they become brown at maturity, dividing into 2
segments. Each capsule contains up to 4 seeds. The seeds are somewhat
flattened and winged; they are distributed to some extent by the
wind. The root system gradually develops clonal offsets that
form a thicket of shrubs after a sufficient length of time. The
deciduous leaves become yellowish brown during the autumn.
The preference is full or partial sun and moist to dry-mesic
conditions. Different types of soil are tolerated if they are not too
acidic or poorly drained. The leaves of Common Lilac are often damaged
by powdery mildew, although some cultivars are highly resistant to this
disease. The flowers are sometimes ruined by a late spring
The non-native Common Lilac has
naturalized in only a few scattered
counties in Illinois (see Distribution
); it rarely escapes from
cultivation. This shrub was introduced into North American from Europe
as an ornamental landscape plant; it is native to SE Europe. Habitats
consist of vacant lots, roadsides, thickets, and areas around abandoned
dwellings, where there has been a history of disturbance.
The nectar of the flowers attracts
long-tongued bees, butterflies, and possibly moths. The caterpillars of
several moths feed on the foliage and other others parts of Common
Lilac. These species include Caloptilia
(Harris' Three-Spot), Olceclostera
(The Angel), Podosesia
(Lilac Borer Moth), Callosamia
(Promethea Moth), Ceratomia undulosa
(Cecropia Moth), Paratrea
Sphinx), Sphinx chersis
(Great Ash Sphinx), and Sphinx
Sphinx). Among vertebrate animals, the Common Redpoll eats the
buds of lilacs (DeVore et al., 2004).
The apartment complex of the
Among the different Syringa
(Lilacs) that are
cultivated, Common Lilac is the only species that has naturalized
within the state. It does not appear to be aggressive. The fragrant
flowers are very showy and distinctive. The floral oil that is
responsible for this fragrance has been extracted commercially and it
is used in the manufacture of scented soaps and other household items.