Nature’s Notebook

Connecting People with Nature to Benefit Our Changing Planet

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Common Lilacs

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Your observations of common lilac (Syringa vulgaris) can enhance the decades of lilac phenology observations that have been collected across the United States. Comparing the phenology of these species with that of cloned plants enhances our understanding of genetic and environmental influences on the plants. Observations of the common and cloned species at the same location are especially valuable for and untangling these mysteries. See what volunteers' observations of common lilacs are revealing.

Tracking a common lilac is easy - you can observe a plant that is already thriving in your yard.


This spring, you will receive predictions of when your common lilac will leaf-out and flower, an effort we call springcasting. We will send you two emails this spring - one alerting you that your lilac should be leafing out in the next three days, and one alerting you that your lilac should bloom. Check your lilacs to see if the prediction is correct as soon after these emails as you can, and report your observations in Nature's Notebook.  

These predictions will help you to more accurately capture the start of leafing and flowering on your lilacs. 

Learn more about springcasting »

How to participate...

 1. Select your plants. Identify one or more common lilac (Syringa vulgaris) plants at your site.

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.

3. Sign up to receive our common lilac campaign messaging (in the right sidebar of this page - you may need to scroll back up to see it). You will receive messages approximately every 4-6 weeks during the growing season, providing early results, encouragement, observation tips, interesting links, and campaign-specific opportunities. Don't miss out!

4. Observe your plant(s). Report what you see (yes/no/not sure) on your plant periodically following the instructions for common 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.

5. Report your observations. Periodically log into your Nature's Notebook account and transfer your observations from your paper data sheet into the online reporting system. Alternatively, you can enter your observations directly using our Android or iPhone smartphone and tablet apps.

2016 Results from the Common Lilac Campaign

How did  lilacs respond in 2016, and was it different from 2015? Phenology calendars provide a picture of when phenophases were reported throughout the year. Colored bars on the phenology calendars below indicate that an observer reported "yes" for breaking leaf buds and open flowers, while gray bars indicate that an observer reported "no." 

In 2015, the majority of breaking leaf buds for common lilacs were reported in March, while in 2016, the majority were reported in late February. There were a few scattered reports in February last year, which might reflect the climatic dipole that occurred last year, with hot temperatures in the west and cool in the east. 

common lilac breaking leaf buds and open flowers 2015-16

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