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A deciduous shrub, 10 to 12 ft high, or a small tree, similar in habit to the common lilac; young shoots glabrous, round; buds purplish. Leaves very broadly heart-shaped to reniform, often considerably wider than long, being 11⁄2 to 4 in. wide, 11⁄2 to 3 in. long, short-pointed, glabrous on both surfaces, stalk 3⁄4 to 1 in. long. Flowers pale lilac, produced at the beginning of May in short broad panicles, usually in pairs from the uppermost joints of the previous year’s wood. Corolla-tube 1⁄2 in. long, about 2⁄3 in. across the lobes; calyx slightly glandular, with pointed lance-shaped lobes. Seed-vessel 5⁄8 in. long, slender-pointed. Series Syringa. Bot. Mag., t. 7806.
Native of N. China; introduced by Robert Fortune from a garden in Shanghai in 1856. It is very closely allied to S. vulgaris, but is easily distinguished by the wider leaves and by flowering about a fortnight earlier. My experience of it is that it is the most unsatisfactory of all the lilacs except S. reticulata var. mandshurica. It is excited into growth by mild weather in early spring, only to have its young leaves and flowers destroyed by later frost. Probably in higher localities it may succeed better, for the shrub itself is perfectly hardy, and in climates with a much harder but more settled winter than ours flowers abundantly. The leaves turn red in autumn.
This is the species which is one parent of the early hybrids S. × hyacinthiflora. In addition to the original introduction, which is widely cultivated in N. China, other varieties have been introduced.
S. affinis L. Henry