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Freek Vrugtman, International Registrar of Lilacs

Freek Vrugtman,
International Registrar of Lilacs
(pronounced 'Frake', ... in case you were wondering.)

Syringa pubescens subsp. julianae 'Hers'

  • Synonyms
    S. juliana 'Hers Variety'
    S. juliana
    'Hers Form'
  • Common Name
    'Hers' Juliana Lila

Ernest Henry Wilson ["Chinese Wilson", 1876-1930] collected seeds of a lilac in October-November 1901 in China, and sent them to Veitch nurseries. Plants raised from these seeds were distributed as S. villosa, but later named S. julianae by Camillo K. Schneider [1911] (A. A. No. 6624; plant received November 1907 from J. Veitch, Chelsea, England). >  Articles  >  Syringa pubescens subsp. julianae 'Hers'

Syringa pubescens subsp. julianae 'Hers'

'Hers' Juliana Lilac

by Freek Vrugtman, International Registrar of Lilacs

In 1920 The Arnold Arboretum received seeds of S. julianae, collected by Joseph Hers in China on December 13, 1919 (A. A. No. 18068; 736-19; no herbarium specimen on record; no Hers collection number). Plants were raised from these seeds; however, the plants were recorded as missing in 1933. The Arnold Arboretum records do not contain the term "Hers variety", though it may have been used elsewhere, to distinguish between the plants grown from the Wilson [1901] and from the Hers [1919] seed lots. The plants grown from the Hers seed lot are not mentioned by McKelvey [1928]. The statement by Fiala, that: ". . . Joseph Hers . . . sent home seeds of . . . the special cultivar he called S. julianae 'Hers'" (Fiala, Lilacs, p. 39) is incorrect; it is most unlikely that Hers collected seed of this lilac, presuming it to be different from the one E. H. Wilson had collected in 1901.

Incidentally, in the late 1950s Joseph Hers resided in Brussels, Belgium, and was a member of the International Dendrology Union. The late Bernard Harkness, at the time taxonomist with the Bureau of Parks, Rochester, NY, corresponded with Hers in 1958/59, inquiring about the existence of diaries, letters or memoirs concerning his plant collecting activities in China; there is no evidence in the letters and in the bibliographies consulted that such records existed. Rochester Parks had received some of the seeds collected by Hers and distributed by the Arnold Arboretum. Whether any of the S. julianae (A. A. No. 18068; 736-19) seeds or plants reached Rochester has not been documented.

Rochester Parks acquired S. julianae plants from Upton Nursery in 1945, which were used in a naturalized planting at Durand-Eastman Park. The records do not indicate whether the planting included specimens of 'Hers'; it is in this planting that 'George Eastman' originated as an open-pollinated seedling (first observed in 1972 as a ca. 5 year old seedling). By 1978 this planting was no longer in existence. A specimen received from Elan Memorial Park in 1959 labeled Syringa julianae Hers Form (No. 844) was subsequently identified as S. microphylla.

The date of introduction of 'Hers' is uncertain. There is no notation in the Arnold Arboretum records that plants of this accession were distributed. Fiala, Lilacs, p. 101, [1988], lists the year of selection or introduction of 'Hers' as 1923, but does not state who selected, named and/or introduced this cultivar. At the time of the 1941 survey conducted by the Committee on Horticultural Varieties of The American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboretums the name S. julianae Hers variety was known and included in the report Lilacs for America, but this lilac was not recorded for any of the gardens and nurseries surveyed. In the report of the 1953 lilac survey Hers variety was recorded for: Elan Memorial Park, Berwick, PA; Whitnall Park Arboretum, Hales Corners, WI; Edw. J. Gardner Nursery, Horicon, WI; Kingsville Nursery (Henry J. Hohman), Kingsville, MD; and Upton Nursery, Detroit, MI. The original sources of the plants in these collections and the dates of acquisition is not known.

Possible specimen of Syringa pubescens subsp. juliana 'Hers Variety'

In the 1990s plants of 'Hers' have been listed by a few nurseries and recorded in a few collections; the original sources of these plants could not be determined. One plant acquired by Royal Botanical Gardens, Hamilton, Ontario, in 1983 as 'Hers' neither can be authenticated (traced back through the records to the original source), nor does it fit the description of Syringa pubescens subsp. julianae.

The earliest published description of 'Hers' appears to be "S V", or single, pinkish, in Wister, Lilacs for America, 32 [1953]; however, on the same page S. julianae also is described as "S V", or single, pinkish. The next and more detailed description is by John Fiala in Lilacs, p. 50 [1988]: "A pale-lavender variety . . . . a much broader bush than the species. . . . deep purple-violet buds that open a lighter lavender both on the outside and inner side of corolla and petals. The notable difference between the 'Hers' variety and the species S. julianae is that the latter carries a flower which is a paler lavender on the outside and a blushed, pale lavender-white on the inside. 'Hers' has a far deeper purple corolla and outer petals opening to a light lavender floret inside the petals." On p. 101 Fiala describes 'Hers' as ". . . more lavender than pink . . . ." The plant of 'Hers' seen by Fiala has not been authenticated.

The evidence seen to date has not been convincing. Readers who believe that they have the real Syringa pubescens subsp. julianae 'Hers' are requested to write to the Editor of Lilacs - Quart. Jour. or contact the International Lilac Registrar.

Syringa pubescens subsp. julianae 'Hers'

syn - S. juliana 'Hers Variety', 'Hers Form'
{presumably grown from seed collected by J. Hers in China)
Wister, Lilacs for America, 49, 50 [1942] - name only; Wister, Lilacs for America, 31, 32 [1953] - as S V (identical in description to S. julianae); Fiala, Lilacs, 39, 50, 101, 107, Pl. 32 [1988].

The "Wister code" symbols used are:

S - Single flowers, D - Double flowers

Colours: I - White, II - Violet, III - Bluish, IV - Lilac, V - Pinkish, VI Magenta, VII - Purple

Biographic note on Joseph Hers (1884-1965)

Joseph Hers was a Belgian railroad construction engineer and administrator, who was first stationed at the Belgian consulate in Shanghai in 1910, and in 1922 was appointed administrator of the Lung-Hai and Pien-Lo railways. During the period 1919 to 1924 Hers collected seed and specimens of more than 2,000 species, most of which were directed to the Arnold Arboretum. Herbarium specimens collected by Hers can be found at Arnold Arboretum (A) (2,234); Botanical Garden, Brussels, Belgium (BR) (2717), RBG Kew (K) (500), College of Agriculture and Forestry, Nanjing, China (NF) (250); and Museum of Natural History, Paris, France (P) (232). Between 1922 and 1938 Joseph Hers published a number of papers on cultivated and indigenous woody plants of China, Manchuria, and the Pacific provinces of Russia; and on Chinese names of plants.

References consulted:

Clark, R. B. 1978. 'George Eastman' lilac. Lilac Newsletter 4(5):9.
Clark, R. B. 1978. in lit. Clark to Vrugtman [November 16, 1978].
Committee on Horticultural Varieties (J. C. Wister, chairman) of the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboretums. April 1942. Lilacs for America - report of the 1941 survey. A. H. Scott Horticultural Foundation, Swarthmore, PA.
Lilac Survey Committee (J. C. Wister, chairman) of the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboretums. 1953. Lilacs for America - report of the 1953 survey. A. H. Scott Horticultural Foundation, Swarthmore, PA.
Cox, E. H. M. 1945. Plant-hunting in China - History of botanical exploration in China and Tibetan marches. Collins, London. [pp.208-209].
Delendick, T. J. 1978. in lit. Delendick to Vrugtman [December 6, 1978].
Fiala, J. L. 1988. Lilacs - the genus Syringa. Timber Press, Portland. [pp. 39, 50, 54, 55, 101, 107, Pl. 32].
Harkness, B. 1958/59. in lit. Harkness to Hers [December 9, 1958]; Hers to Harkness [March 6, 1959].
Harkness, B. 1961. Excerpts: Letters of Charles Sprague Sargent to Rochester Park personnel. Chapbooks, Rochester. [p. 40].
Keiper, E. 1945. Rochester in lilac time. Flower Grower. [May 1945].
Kelly, J. W. 1978. in lit. Kelly to Vrugtman [November 29, 1978].
Koller, G. L. 1979. in lit. Koller to Vrugtman [January 2, 1979].
McKelvey, S. D. 1928. The Lilac - a monograph. Macmillan, New York. (p. 131-133).
Merrill, E. D., and E. H. Walker. 1938. Bibliography of eastern Asiatic botany. The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, Jamaica Plain, MA (p. 176).
Oakes, W. W. 1979. in lit. Oakes to Vrugtman [March 28 & April 11, 1979].
Pringle, J. S. 1998. interdepartmental memoranda.
Spongberg, S. A. 1990. A reunion of trees - The discovery of exotic plants and their introduction into North American and European landscapes. Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge. (p. 227).
Sutton, S. B. 1970. Charles Sprague Sargent and the Arnold Arboretum. Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge. (pp. 265-266).
Walker, E. H. 1960. Bibliography of eastern Asiatic botany - supplement.1 American Institute of Biological Sciences, Washington, DC (p. 97)
Lanjouw, J., and F. A. Stafleu. 1957. Index herbariorum Part II (2) - Collectors E-H. Regnum Vegetabile vol. 9. IBPT & IAPT, Utrecht, NL. (p. 272).
Wister, J. C. 1968 lilac survey. (a proposed revision and update of Lilacs for America, 1953) unpublished manuscript.


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