What it looks like:
Syringa is an attractive perennial shrub that reaches heights of 4 to 8 feet. Its white, waxy flowers have 4 to 5 petals and many prominent bright yellow stamens. The flowers grow in clusters and give off a penetrating fragrance reminiscent of orange blossoms -- hence, syringa is also known as "mock orange." The oval leaves are 1 to 3 inches long. Large groups of syringa in bloom can the impression of a snow-covered hillside. Syringa flowers from late May through July.
Where it grows:
Syringa is found in medium-dry to moist soil along streams, rocky talus, dry ravines and canyons. Its range stretches from British Columbia to northern California east to Idaho and western Montana. Two of the 50 kinds of Philadelphus that grow worldwide are found in our region.
Look for syringa in the Boise National Forest near Idaho City and the canyons around Anderson Ranch Reservoir.
What's in a name?
The genus name "Philadelphus" honors an Egyptian king, Ptolemy Philadelphus. "Lewisii" pays tribute to the scientist and explorer Captain Meriwether Lewis, who collected syringa during the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Native Americans fashioned arrows, pipe stems and combs from syringa’s straight, sturdy stems. It also provides forage for quail, deer and elk. Many people use syringa as a landscaping shrub.
Syringa is the state flower of Idaho.