Lilacs (Genus Syringa L.; Family Oleaceae Hoffmanns. & Link) are favorite garden plants in temperate regions throughout the world, prized for their showy fragrant early spring bloom and hardiness in the landscape. Native to East Asia and Southeast Europe (Krüssmann, 1978), lilacs were brought to North America with the first settlers and were sold by nurseries as early as 1800 (Fiala, 1988). Today, over two million lilacs are sold annually in the United States with a wholesale value of over $13 million (NASS, 1998). At least 2000 named cultivars exist, primarily of the common lilac, S. vulgaris L. (Fiala, 1988).
The lilac breeding program at the U.S. National Arboretum was started in the 1970s by the late Donald R. Egolf with the objectives of developing lilacs that were adapted to warmer climates, had disease and pest tolerance, and had a showy fragrant floral display. Controlled hybridizations using several species, including S. oblata subsp. dilatata (Nakai) P.S. Green & M.C. Chang, S. vulgaris L., and S. ×hyacinthiflora Rehder, have resulted in selections with various habits, flower colors, and environmental adaptations. Reported here are basic botanical descriptions and origins of the first three cultivars resulting from this program, which were released in 2000 (‘Betsy Ross’) and 2006 (‘Old Glory’ and ‘Declaration’).
Brickell, C.D., Baum, B.R., Hetterscheid, W.L.A., Leslie, A.C., McNeill, J., Trehane, P., Vrugtman, F. & Wiersema, J.H. 2004 International code of nomenclature for cultivated plants 7th Edition International Society for Horticultural Science, Acta Horticulturae 647
National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) 1998 1998 Census of Horticultural Specialties 7 Aug. 2007 <http://www.nass.usda.gov/census/census97/horticulture/horticulture.htm>.