Japanese Tree Lilac
Japanese Tree Lilac (‘Syringa reticulata’), more simply called Tree-lilac, is a tree native to Japan, introduced to the US around 1880. It is a smallish tree, usually 20 to 30’ tall, with stiff branches in youth that become more spreading with age.
Tree-lilac is related to the more familiar lilac shrub, called common lilac (‘Syringa vulgaris’) which blooms in May with purplish fragrant flowers. Tree-lilac is an upright form, blooms in June. Flower clusters are strongly fragrant, bright white to creamy white, really big at 6 to 12” long and wide, with dramatic effect against the rounded green leaves.
Bark of Tree-lilac is quite decorative, smooth, grayish, with distinct markings called horizontal lenticels. Lenticels are little corky spots on bark that provide exchange of oxygen and other gasses between a tree’s inner tissues and the atmosphere. Most of us learned in grade school that trees “breathe” through their leaves, but isn’t it fascinating to learn that some trees also breathe through their bark, too? Lenticels on Tree-lilac, and also on cherry trees, occur in horizontal bands. Great feature for identification. Plus, it’s just fun to recognize them and say to yourself or out loud, “Aha – horizontal lenticels!”
The young Tree-lilacs in the photo are in bloom on Lincoln St. Other Tree-lilacs are scattered throughout Medford including several on Craddock Ave and on Kenway St. If you come across any of them, hope you get to “stop and smell the Tree-lilacs” and check out their horizontal lenticels, too.
– Submitted by Aggie Tuden, Medford Tree Warden