Saturday, April 17, 2010

Syringa vulgaris

Today, the common lilac. We are fortunate enough to have a number of large, exuberant lilac bushes which form a leafy, fragrant hedge along the south side of our yard, save for a reasonably sized gap, just right for calling through to the neighbors. (Especially handy if you have some extra Fragaria ananassa** to unload.) (Or the desire to write windy run-on sentences.) (Lucky you!)

They smell divine. (The lilacs, not the neighbors. Or the Fragaria ananassa for that matter.) Especially in the morning. Especially in the morning when one has a few moments to sit quietly, drink coffee and read, alone. In the warm sunshine. I proudly take my place among the countless other Virginians who have delighted in their lilacs; the first were introduced in my fair state in the early 1700s, and perfected here by John Custis, in Williamsburg, of course.

In researching the good old lilac I discovered nothing all that intriguing, but did happen upon Phillip Miller. Miller was a Scottish botanist who lived from 1691 to 1771. He was the head gardener of the Chelsea Physic Garden in London, the second oldest botanical garden in England. He seems to have been a bit of an obdurate old chap and rejected Linnaeus' new-fangled nomenclature for most of his life. In the end he did embrace the new binomial system, but Miller's nomenclature lives on, as evidenced by the many plants that bear his authorial citation. (There appears to be a rather complex world of plant-naming which I realize may not fascinate my readers as much as it does me. Please do dive into the above links if you so desire... though be warned, a love of Latin may be required.)

I'll leave you with a po-em, by Emily Dickinson

The Lilac is an ancient shrub
But ancienter than that
The Firmamental Lilac
Upon the Hill tonight --
The Sun subsiding on his Course
Bequeaths this final Plant
To Contemplation -- not to Touch --
The Flower of Occident.
Of one Corolla is the West --
The Calyx is the Earth --
The Capsules burnished Seeds the Stars
The Scientist of Faith
His research has but just begun --
Above his synthesis
The Flora unimpeachable
To Time's Analysis --
"Eye hath not seen" may possibly
Be current with the Blind
But let not Revelation
By theses be detained --

**QUIZ! Who knows what Fragaria ananassa is? No fair googling it... Post your guesses and you could win.... um, nothing! But we'll think you're cool, at least.**


margaret said...

lookin' good, mookie!!

Colleen and Ella said...

I love all the plant/Latin naming tidbits! My guess was fragrant something...then I googled it because I had to know.