Philadelphus lewisii Pursh
Collected along the Clearwater River between the mouth of the Potlatch
River and Pine Creek in Nez Perce Co., Idaho, on 6 May 1806. (Source)
This multiple-stemmed, loosely-branched shrub grows 5-10 feet tall, and can be distinguished from similar shrubs by its showy, fragrant, white flowers; thin, scaly bark; and pairs of opposite branchlets. Leaves are opposite, deciduous, oval, 1-3 inches long, with short stems, smooth or sparingly toothed edges, and 3-5 conspicuous veins originating near the leaf base. Flowers appear May through July in showy clusters of 3-15 flowers at the ends of branches. Fruits are oval, woody capsules about ¼ inch long. In winter, plants can be recognized by the light, somewhat reddish-orange color of younger twigs, opposite bud scars, and the absence of any noticeable buds. The Lewis' syringa occurs on well-drained, moist sites. It grows on deep, rich alluvial loams to rocky or gravelly loams. Lewis' syringa is commonly found on rocky sites, at the base of talus slopes and cliffs, along streams, and in seasonally moist draws. Lewis' syringa occurs from sea level up to 7,000 feet. The syringa is the state flower of Idaho.
The fresh leaves were bruised and used as poultices to heal infected breasts. Salves were made using either dried leaves or charcoal from burning the wood. Both were ground into fine powder, which was then mixed with pitch or bear grease. These salves were used for treating sores and swellings.
Value for Animals:
Lewis' syringa is a moderately important winter forage species for deer and elk in the northern Rocky Mountains. In northern Idaho, use by white-tailed deer was moderate, although a few individual plants were browsed heavily. Lewis' syringa seeds are eaten by quail and squirrels.
Easy to grow from hardwood cuttings. Can be grown from seed, which are so numerous they can be sown directly on-site. Seed not planted in the fall can be sown without any pre-treatment, or cold-stratified for eight weeks at 41° F. Can also be grown from rooted suckers transplanted from salvage sites.