Nature Notes: It’s prime season to smell the lilacs

Jim Gilbert
Nature Notes

The common purple lilac is known for its intensely fragrant flowers, borne on 4 to 8 inch long clusters called panicles that usually grow in pairs out from end buds.

Many of us have a nostalgic fondness for this shrub, which we associate with a grandmother or mom who picked bouquets and brought them in to let the fragrance permeate the house.

Countless cultivars (clones and hybrids) have been developed, so lilacs with white, violet, blue, pink and purple flowers are now available. My favorite is still the old-fashioned common purple one, which usually blooms in mid-May in central Minnesota.

We have seen them blooming as late as early July along the North Shore of Lake Superior.

The common purple lilac shrub is native to southeastern Europe, but it has been grown in American yards and gardens since early colonial times.



Ruby-throated hummingbirds winter from south Texas to Costa Rica. They usually migrate by day but can also migrate at night. They have returned and are visiting sugar water feeders.

Orioles, grosbeaks, tanagers and some warblers are also fond of sweet liquids. Fill feeders with a mixture of about one part sugar to four of water. Do not add food coloring, but there should be red on the feeder itself as ruby-throats are strongly attracted to red.


What’s happening outdoors now?

It’s time to begin enjoying the superb fragrances and visual beauty of crabapple, apple and lilac flowers.

Sugar maples, basswoods and bur oaks are among the trees with small leaves.

Watch for the first broods of mallard ducklings and Canada goose goslings. Our neighbors, Joe and RaeAnn Tewinkel, pulled their first rhubarb and made sauce on May 8, and shared a jar with us. Delicious! Last year they did this on March 30.


On May 16 a year ago

We had a low temperature of 47 and a high of 70 degrees under sunny skies. Columbine and wild geranium were among the wildflowers blooming.

Lake Waconia water temperature had warmed into the 60s since ice-out March 18 (ice-out this year was April 30). Alfalfa was being harvested. Many Carver County farmers were planting soybeans. Statewide, corn was 88 percent planted and 45 percent emerged.