Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Common Lilac/Almindelig Syren

Flora and Fauna
Syringa  vulgaris


Syringa vulgaris (Lilac or Common Lilac) is a shrub (tree) belonging to the olive family and is a native of  the Balkan peninsula in the southeastern Europe where it grows on rocky hills. It can grow as high as fifteen feet and is very hardy, but if not pruned it may be choked by suckers which come up from the roots.It bears its fragrant flowers in clusters at the end of the twigs, and a lilac hedge in full bloom gratifies both the eye and the sense of smell. There are several species and many varieties, ranging in color from a dark bluish purple, through delicate lavender to pure white.

Aside from Roses, there is no flower as beautiful and aromatic as Lilacs. Of the two, Lilacs have a stronger scent that carries quite a distance. The lilac is blooming in May-June with sweet-smelling flowers. It's common in Denmark in garden and in hedgerows, and it was already commonly cultivated from ab. the 1650s.  In the beginning of June the soft scent of purple lilacs is flowing from hundreds of hedgerows on the Danish island Funen, especially in the southwestern part of the island.

The English common name lilac is from French lilac, from Spanish lilac, from Persian lilak, from Arabic lilak.  The name syringa comes from the Greek word syrinx = flute. The marrow is easy to remove and the wood was used for flutes, pipe tubes and other pipeshaped instruments and tools, and in fine turning works, inlaid works and tool shafts. Thin sticks from lilac or willow were used as thatching sticks.  The lilac twigs were preferred to the willow twigs as a spread over the newly sown herbal beds, so the hens could not go scrathcing there. 

Boys carved flutes from the branches, and the tough bark strips were used in spring as whiplashes.  A leaf was put over the fist and cut with a bang.   

The flowers were put on strings for fine garlands, and on Whit Sunday the rooms were decorated with lilacs and narcissus.

Folk medicine: 
Essence from the leaves was used as a stomach tonic against diarrhea, and essence from the flowers was used against hypocondria and colic. The scent of large bouquets of lilacs in a closed room was known to give a headache. 

If the lilacs have a strong scent then it's going to rain.  If you find a flower with three petals (normal 4) this will cause sorrow, but five petals means luck. 
If the thumb and forefinger are squeezed  around a flower at the stalk - and the hand is moved up and down until the flower falls off, the number of movements indicate years of life.
Lilacs are often considered to symbolize love. In Greece, Lebanon and Cyprus, the lilac is strongly associated with Easter time because it flowers around that time; it is consequently called paschalia.  Several locations in North America hold annual Lilac festivals.

The lilac is a popular flower both in Danish and international prosa and poetry.

Source: V J. Brøndegård, "folk og flora", Dansk Etnobotanik, bd. 4, Rosenkilde og Bagger, 1978. 

photos May and June: grethe bachmann

From wikipedia:
Lilac is a colour that is a pale tone of violet that is a representation of the average colour of most lilac flowers. It might also be descibed as light purple. The colours of some lilac flowers may be equivalent to the colours pale lilac, rich lilac or deep lilac. There are other lilac flowers that are coloured red-violet. The first recorded use of lilac as a colour name in English was in 1775.


Gerry Snape said...

We had two lilac trees at the bottom of the garden growing up. One white and the other beautiful lilac-coloured. I adored them for the scent and the tiny florets but most of all because the branches and twigs made wonderful arms and legs for my hand made puppets on strings! The hollow branches took the strings so well that there were times my poor father thought the tree must die if any thing else is stripped off it! But every year the treee came back in all it's glory. Thankyou for this memory!

Thyra said...

Hello Gerry, what lovely memories. I didn't know that the branches were so easy to use when I played in grandma's garden! It must have been fun for you to make such puppets on strings. This must actually be an old way to use them I suppose - for puppets on strings is an ancient play.
I'm sorry that I have no pictures of the darkest purple and the pure white lilacs. They are so beautiful.

I love the scent in a garden with lilacs after summer rain.

Grethe ´)

Michael and Hanne said...

A Wonderful Post!

Out on the prairie said...

I enjoy these in May, I have a 25 foot bush on one corner of my home.

Teresa Evangeline said...

I am almost surrounded by lilacs in the spring. I have several large, old bushes and some French lilacs, too. noticed one bush that was much more pink in color. I look forward to my second spring here and all I will see. Thank you for the reminder! It's very welcome, here in the middle of winter. :)

Thyra said...

Hej Michael and Hanne, Steve and Teresa!
It was because I longed so much for spring and May and the lilacs that I wrote the post. I looked out the window and then looked at pictures of lilacs and roses.
I hate to put all those clothes on each time I'm going out. I like the winter sun and the fresh cool air and a light frost with a little snow in a fairy landscape of course, but the days are mostly dark and grey..... I liked it better when I was young!! I'll stop quarrelling now !!
I'm looking for more May-stuff!!

Teresa, how wonderful your garden must be - and what a scent of lilacs.
Grethe ´)

Kittie Howard said...

Oh, but you know how much I love photos like these. My imagination has me walking along, not thinking much, just enjoying - and, yes, stopping to smell the lilacs. Great post!

This is the first time I've been able to leave a comment. I also see that my photo is back with your followers. I think Blogger has been busy because it's in the news that Google is consolidating much. Not sure if that's good, but what can one do? Will e-mail you later. (And, great rescue, eh?)

Thyra said...

Hej Kittie! It's great that your blog is okay now. It's odd how Google behaves sometimes. A mysterious gentleman that Mr. Google!!!

Kittie, I think lilacs really wake up good memories. At the same time we can be looking forward to seeing the lilacs this summer. Is'nt it lovely to just think about summer and lilacs!
I love your story about Aunt Edna. It's a wonderful story about a colourful lady.
See you soon! I'll e-mail later too. I'm spring-cleaning now! ´)