This Week’s Featured Flower is the lilac. If you’ve never smelled a lilac, drop everything and make this your top priority. Not only do these flowering trees smell amazing, but their conical blooms are the dreamiest. They are typically either white, lavender, or magenta. They tend to grow best in colder climates like ours in Chicago (#blessed). Here, they bloom in May.
Lilacs originally come from Persia and were introduced to the English through the ottoman empire. According to A General History of Dichlamydeous Plants, by George Don (published 1838), the lilac gets its name from lilag, the Persian word for flower. The Language of Flowers cites the purple lilac as meaning “first emotions of love” and the white as meaning “youthful innocence.”
Lilacs also have an interesting connection to classical myth. One day, the nymph Syrinx was being chased by the god Pan. Approaching a river, Syrinx asked for assistance from river nymphs, who changed her into a bunch of reeds. Pan then used these reeds to create the pan-pipe, or syrinx. Here is Ovid’s account from the Metamorphoses, Book 1:
The genus name of the lilac is syringa, from the Greek word syrinx (sound familiar?). Syrinx is defined by etymonline.com as “tube, hold, channel, shepherd’s pipe," assigned no doubt due to the soft, spongy pith inside the woody stalk. It is thought that perhaps the stems of lilacs might have been hollowed out to make pipes or flutes similar to the panpipe.
So now that you’re all jazzed about lilacs, you may need to curb your enthusiasm. These are very rare to find in a typical florists shops because they don’t ship well. But since our flowers are grown not flown here at Persephone, we can offer them to you in the month of May.