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A deciduous shrub, 10 ft or more high, of robust habit; branches erect, stout, stiff, nearly or quite glabrous when young, marked with a few pale dots. Leaves oval or oval lance-shaped, pointed, rounded or wedge-shaped at the base, 2 to 6 in. long, 1 to 21⁄2 in. wide, glabrous and dark green above, glaucous and thinly furnished with bristle-like hairs or nearly glabrous beneath; stalk 1⁄4 to 11⁄4 in. long. Panicles terminal and axillary, often three at the end of a leafy shoot; they are usually 6 to 10 in. long (but I have measured exceptionally fine ones 18 in. long), half to two-thirds as wide. Corolla lilac-rose, 1⁄2 in. long, the lobes 1⁄8 in. long, rounded, spreading. Calyx bell-shaped with four short, pointed lobes; slightly hairy or glabrous. Seed-vessel about 1⁄2 in. long. Series Villosae. Bot. Mag., t. 9284.
Native of N. China; discovered early in the 18th century by Père d’Incarville, the Jesuit missionary; introduced around 1880 by Dr E. Bretschneider from the mountains west of Peking, where it sometimes attains the dimensions of a tree. Much confusion existed for a time as to the correct name for this lilac but eventually it was shown to be the true S. villosa and that the plants then grown under that name were really S. pubescens.
This beautiful lilac, perhaps the most robust of its section of the genus, flowers at the end of May and early in June, after the flowers of the common lilac and its varieties have faded. It is one of the most desirable of hardy shrubs, vigorous in constitution, and free flowering. It differs from S. vulgaris and its allies in forming a true terminal bud, and in flowering on the current year’s shoots. As will be noticed by the synonyms recorded above, it has been referred to as S. emodi, to which it is allied, but from which it differs in its larger, more open inflorescence.