Nature’s Notebook

Connecting People with Nature to Benefit Our Changing Planet

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Cloned Lilacs

Cloned Plants Program logoYou're invited to participate in the Cloned Plants Project by purchasing a cloned lilac and reporting phenology observations via Nature's Notebook. You can also participate by tracking a common lilac that is already established in your yard. 

Why Clones?

A maple tree in New York blooms later than a maple tree in Georgia. Why? Is it that both trees bloom when it's been warmer than 40 degrees Farenheit for 3 weeks? Or are there genetic differences between the trees? One way to tease these influences apart is by planting genetically identical plants, or clones, in different locations, and then to observe when they leaf out and flower. When observations are made on cloned plants, you can know with confidence that differences in the timing of phenological events between different individuals is due to differences in local environmental conditions.

Volunteers have been tracking cloned lilacs for over 50 years, and these observations have been invaluable for documenting how plants are responding to a variable and changing climate. See how observations from the extremely early spring of 2012 stack up against the previous 50 years. Learn even more.

Consider contributing to this valuable effort by tracking a cloned lilac (Syringa x chinensis 'Red Rothomagensis') in your yard. View the map to find out whether lilacs grow where you live. We are also interested in observations of cloned dogwoods; if you live in the southeastern US, a cloned dogwood might be best for you.

How to participate...

1. Obtain your cloned plants.

Cloned lilacs are available for purchase through Jung Seed Company during the planting season (late March through early June) at a cost of $20 for two plants. Place an order from their direct page or call 1-800-247-5864.

Once you have received your plants, check the information on choosing a planting site and on lilac planting and care.

If you prefer to track plants which are already established at your site, we also welcome observations on common lilac (Syringa vulgaris)

2. Join Nature's Notebook. If you haven't already, create a Nature's Notebook account. See our specifics of observing if you need more details on getting started. Make sure you register your lilac as the clone Syringa x chinensis 'Red Rothomagensis' when adding the plant to your site. 

3. Observe your plant(s). Report what you see (yes/no/not sure) on your plant periodically following the instructions for cloned lilacs. We encourage you to observe your plant(s) 2-4 times a week, especially in the spring, when things are changing rapidly. However, we welcome any observations you can contribute.

4. Report your observations. As you collect data during the season, log in to your Nature's Notebook account and enter the observation data you recorded. You can also use our smartphone apps to submit your observations!

Cloned plants program roots

Lilacs at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

For over 50 years cooperators in the United States and Canada have assisted phenological researchers by making phenological observations on cloned lilacs and honeysuckles. This program has now been incorporated into the USA-NPN's Cloned Plants Project. Previously it had been part of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Indicator Observation Program. In addition to the cloned and common lilac, some participants in the UWM program observed cloned honeysuckle Lonicera tatarica 'Arnold Red'. Due to its invasive nature, honeysuckles have not been distributed to observers since 1987. The USA-NPN does not distribute the honeysuckle nor support its distribution, but we do welcome observations from historically established cloned honeysuckles. Find out more about the Cloned Plants Project and its history.

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Cloned Lilacs