Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) versus Wisteria (Hygrophila difformis)

Lavender-colored blossoms abound at this time of year. Between the azaleas, lilacs (trees and bushes) and the wisteria vines, it can be a little confusing. So, here are a couple of pictures (for my own edification) and an Emily Dickinson poem.

The Lilac is an ancient Shrub
But ancienter than that
The Firmamental Lilac
Upon the Hill tonight -
The Sun subsiding on his Course
Bequeaths this final plant
To Contemplation - not to Touch -
The Flower of Occident.

Of one Corolla is the West -
The Calyx is the Earth -
The Capsule's burnished Seeds the Stars -
The Scientist of Faith
His research has but just begun -
Above his Synthesis
The Flora unimpeachable
To Time's Analysis -
"Eye hath not seen" may possibly
Be current with the Blind
But let not Revelation
By Theses be detained -

The lilacs in Emily's garden were laden with perfumed panicles of bloom in May. Apparently it is impossible for people not to stick their noses in them :) They are long-lived and their purple flowers reminded Emily of the sunset and of her botanical glossary. I will have to consult the dictionary to understand some of her verse.

At present I dont have any lilac in my yard, but a tip in Marta McDowell's book Emily Dickinson's Gardens states that

lilacs are undemanding plants. They will grow in sunny spots in practically any soil, and once established, don't ask for any extra water or fertilizer, though they will reward you if you give them a dusting of lime near their roots in spring.

Sounds like something I might could grow.

Wisteria is also lavender-colored.

This vine is something I'd rather not have in my backyard.

It is almost as invasive as kudzu.

I dont want to confuse it with Lilac.

Now I think I know the difference.


  1. "Apparently it is impossible for people not to stick their noses in them."

    That's the truth. We have one in our yard that's got to be twenty feet tall and nearly that wide. Friday when I was cutting the grass out front, every time I came to the lilac I had to pause and stick my nose in it before turning and cutting the next swath.

  2. Yes, wisteria is a pesky invader - but the scent!!!!

  3. Interestingly enough... in our part of the world, the (tree) Wisteria - Bolusanthus speciosus - is indigenous; we're fortunate to have one in the garden.

  4. I looked that up, Sonya. Very pretty. But I dont guess it's blooming at this time of year, since your season is the opposite of mine?

  5. no Dana, it's not blooming; it's planted amidst many shrubs & trees that it actually doesn't come to its right; we identified it by the (sparse) purple flowers that appeared from somewhere suspended between branches & flowers of the bottlebrush:-)