Lottah Nursery Tasmania, Australia

Syringa pinnatifolia

This is one of the rarest of lilacs, near extinct in its native habit in China, and until fairly recently, seldom encountered in botanical collections anywhere.

Specimens were first collected by E. H. Wilson in the mountains of Szechuan in 1904 and again on subsequent expeditions, and described by W. B. Hemsley.

There are reported to be shrubs sporting pink flowers in the wild but virtually all the plants in captivity have white/ivory flowers, and distribution appears to have been mainly from one clone. In very recent times a new clone, S. pinnatifolia var. alashanica, has been introduced from a collecting expedition to China and it became available to enthusiasts in limited quantities for the first time in 2006.

Impossible to misidentify since this is the only lilac with pinnate leaves, it is one of the earliest to come into flower (mid to late September at Lottah) with clusters of ivory-white tubular flowers on lateral buds. Sniff long enough, and surely there is a faint whiff of fragrance to this horticultural gem.

Hybrids of this species form the x diversifolia group, with 'W.H. Judd' being the best known, but that is no less an uncommon plant.

In its native habitat it is reported to grow to 2m or so and expected to be somewhat smaller under cultivation. There are no known reports of it suckering.

For those interested in the finer details we have a micrograph of S. pinnatifolia pollen grains.

(click on thumbnails for larger images)

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Syringa pinnatifolia leaves
Syringa pinnatifolia flowers
Syringa pinnatifolia flowers

60411-6608 (3, 13, 32, 69)