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Lilac - Syringa vulgaris

Lilac - Syringa vulgaris

Edible plant - novice

Other common names: Common Lilac, French Lilac

Scientific name meaning: Syringa comes from the Greek Syringos meaning pipe or tube and is a reference to the base of the petals. Vulgaris is Latin in origin and means common or general

Lilac habitat


A common sight in parks and gardens, Lilac is a native of the Balkans and has naturalised in the UK. 

It can be found in woodland, in hedges, on roadsides, and on brownfield sites or waste ground

Lilac structure

Overall structure

Lilac is a deciduous shrub growing to 7m tall. It produces suckers and is often quite leggy at the base and appears top-heavy with foliage

Lilac trunk


As it forms suckers, Lilac appears to have numerous thin trunks. The bark is grey-brown and becomes cracked and flaky with age

Lilac leaf


The leaves are roughly heart-shaped and have a dark green upper surface with an almost velvet-like sheen to them.

Lilac flower

Flower heads

The flower heads are in a panicle formation (a long stem with small clusters of flowers along its length) tapering at the top. This gives them an elongated pyramid shape

Lilac individual flowers


The individual flowers have a four petalled corolla tube giving them a trumpet-like appearance. They can have a single layer or several layers of petals, giving the a petticoat like appearance. Flower colour is white, purple, lilac, pink, or deep pink, and its scent is strong and reminiscent of the confectionery Parma Violets 

Buddleja leaf

Possible lookalikes

Lilac could be confused with Buddleja species, but these have oval leaves (left) rather than heart-shaped leaves (right)

Use as a food The flowers are used to make jams, jellies, syrups, flavoured vinegars and cordials. They can also be used to infuse cream or milk to make dairy-based puddings.

The flowers can also be used in cake decorating and sprinkled through salads

Hazards None known at time of writing

Other uses Perfumeries use Lilac flower oil, while dyes of various colours have been extracted from different parts of the plant

Use in herbal medicine Lilac has been used to treat internal parasites and mouth sores, and to break fevers

If you are suffering from any ailment or need medical advice, please see your General Practitioner

Importance to other species Flowers provide a food source for pollinators

Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!

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