Japanese lilac

The size of the Japanese lilac, as well as its low maintenance, make it a popular ‘street tree.’

If you have driven through Mahoningtown in the last week, you may have noticed “street trees” with white blooms.

My Facebook friend Evelyn Boots did and wanted to know what was the name of those trees. I enjoy those questions, if the tree is in bloom. If it is just green leaves, sometimes I haven’t a clue what it is.

I took a ride to Mahoningtown and snipped off one of the flowers to make sure of my identification. I chose a tree growing beside St. Margaret’s Hall and did it without my old childhood friend Russ Hall catching me. I hope he doesn’t notice it’s missing.

The name of the tree is Syringa reticulata or, as we common folks call it, Japanese lilac. It is related to Syringa vulgaris, which is the common lilac.

The Japanese lilac blooms about two weeks after the common lilac. It can be grown either as a multi-trunk shrub or as a single-trunk tree. They bloom in clusters of white fragrant flowers, which are about a foot long and 10 inches wide and are very showy. They sure did catch Evelyn’s attention.

Japanese lilacs bloom for two weeks. When the flowers fade, seed capsules appear, which attract songbirds.

The tree itself can get 30 feet high with a 15- to 20-foot spread. It is commonly planted as a street tree because it survives well and maintains its shape without any pruning.

I have tried to avoid the subject of street trees, but Evelyn’s question has triggered my brain. I love street trees, but you have to have some idea of where to plant them. They just don’t do well in cement. If you want to see what I’m talking about, look at the trees on Mill Street at Washington Center.

Let’s begin my rampage with Ben Franklin. In 1752 he flew a kite and discovered electricity. I really like his invention and use it every day.

About 124 years later, in 1876, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. I don’t use that as much as the electricity thing. But when I was a teen, it came in handy for keeping in touch with whomever I was going steady with.

A few years later, Thomas Alva Edison came up with the light bulb. I am using four of his products as I type this article. Good job, Tom!

I would mention the guy who invented cable TV, but I don’t know who it is, plus he is costing me a fortune.

You ask, “What do all of these inventions have to do with street trees?”

The answer is – wires. Wires run along the streets. They are high up, which is nice so we don’t get electrocuted.

Let’s say the wires are 20 to 30 feet above the street. It’s just not a good idea to plant a tree that is going to grow 60 feet tall under them. What happens is the power company comes along and cuts all the branches touching the wires. This totally destroys the tree’s shape.

There are trees that do work as street trees, and Japanese lilac is one of them. A few other popular ones are the flowering pear and the serviceberry.

Okay, I’m done ranting.

There are some trees that bring back memories of my childhood. One of them is the peach tree. My dad planted one in the backyard of our house on Bluff Street. He might have gotten a peach or two, but I don’t remember ever having a slew of peaches laying around.

What I do remember are the branches. This is going to be hard for you to fathom, but sometimes my mother thought that I misbehaved. Her weapon of choice to correct me was a switch from that peach tree. I was glad when it died.

Make your space a green space.

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