The lilac bush is one of nature’s most formidable flora, able to withstand the most grueling of weather conditions. And when it blooms, it’s generally a long-awaited sign that spring is on the way. But the fragrant flowering bush’s roots run deep, and different cultures have assigned it a wide range of meanings over the years. Indeed, if you see a lilac bush outside someone’s home today, it may have been planted for a heartbreaking reason.
In recent years, lilacs have been growing not only in gardens but also in popularity. They flower in an attractive array of colors, you see, including purple, pink, white and blue. And despite their hardy reputation, their pastel-like palette is easy on the eye, introducing softness to any landscape. What’s more, as most variations of the plant can grow to a whopping ten feet tall, they’re great for adding height to green spaces.
Now, the lilac’s botanical moniker is syringa vulgaris, and it’s part of the Oleaceae, or olive, family. That puts it in the same group as more than 20 distinctive types of plants, including the likes of privets, jasmines, and of course, olives. And within those types are hundreds of species – indeed, the lilac alone boasts over 1,000 different varieties.
Not all of the lilac varieties are similar, either. Many of them grow in bush formations, such as the Souvenir de Louis Spaeth, which blossoms in prettiest pink. But there are also plenty of lilac trees, including the Japanese variant, which can grow to a remarkable stature of 30 feet. And some of them even defy typical lilac behavior, by – for example – blooming at unusual times of the year.
In any case, lilacs have been growing in popularity for all sorts of reasons. For many folks, you see, the idyllic flower’s fragrance is associated with a childhood memory. Yes, as one gardening blogger reminisced in 2017, “When I breathe in their sweet perfume, I am a little girl in my mother’s garden, holding as many stems of purple flower clusters that my hands can manage.”
That’s not the only reason why the lilac scent is so popular, though. After all, you don’t need to have grown up with it in your garden to appreciate just how wonderful it smells. Next time you’re at the grocery store, for instance, a stroll down the soap aisle will cause you to notice how many different products use the attractive aroma of the flowering bush.
Furthermore, lilacs are also an ideal choice for budding gardeners. Not only are they tough plants, but they’re also very easy to grow. In fact, all they need is a daily dose of sunlight, some good soil and time to rest during the cold winter months. Yes, they should survive well through even the frostiest climates. But they, unfortunately, don’t cope quite as well in the scorching heat.
Therefore, if you’re having a go at planting lilacs for the first time, don’t be disparaged when they don’t bloom instantly. You’ll just need to be patient. There could, you see, be as many as three years between your initial planting and the first time that the flowers make an appearance. As long as you take good care of them in the meantime, you should have nothing to worry about.
And you don’t need to be a horticulturist to provide the level of care that the bushes need, either. Indeed, there are just three seasonal rules to remember when growing lilacs. In winter, give them a little fertilizer if they’re looking malnourished – but not too much. In spring, throw down a fresh pile of compost. And in summer, give them a weekly splash of water when the weather’s dry.
So, the common lilac plants usually bloom in the late spring or early summer. That’s typically ahead of other flowers, such as roses, which tend to come out later in the summer. Not all lilac varieties share the same schedule, though. Some bloom just before the spring, for instance, or early in the season. However, in the early 20th century, horticulturist Isabella Preston bred 52 new late-blooming lilac varieties, which were designed to withstand the cold Canadian springs.
While Syringa vulgaris may be widespread in the United States, it isn’t actually native to the country. Indeed, the common lilac’s original habitat lies in the Balkan Peninsula, where it grows on mountainsides. And botanists only discovered this in the early 19th century – long after the aromatic plant had been introduced to European gardens and exported across the Atlantic ocean.
Historians believe lilacs first made the journey to the United States in the middle of the 18th century. Apparently, you see, they were originally planted in New Hampshire, in what’s now a state park – but was, at the time, the Governor Wentworth Estate. In the years since, the lilac has become the state’s official flower, reportedly reflecting the hardiness of New Hampshire’s population.
In the States, lilacs could be called something of a presidential plant, too. That’s because George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are both known to have planted the flowering bush in the late 1700s. Jefferson, who served as the country’s third president, documented his endeavors in great detail in his gardening journal.
And as the lilac made its way around the world, more and more species were cultivated. For instance, from the late 19th to early 20th centuries, French horticulturist Victor Lemoine bred more than 153 new lilac hybrids. Among these were his “French lilacs,” which broadened the color spectrum of the flower. Several of Lemoine’s cultivars are still popular among landscapers to this day.
By the end of the 19th century, the common lilac – and Lemoine’s hybrid alternatives – sat alongside a number of Asian varieties in American and European gardens. Mostly hailing from Japan, Korea and China, these lilacs are popular for their shorter stature. That’s right, one particular species, known as “Miss Kim,” doesn’t tend to grow above five feet tall. And it doesn’t need an icy winter to bloom, either.
On the other hand, the common lilac bush fares best in places that experience particularly cold winters. Their blooming is ultimately a welcome sign, then, because it happens when the weather changes, signaling that the snowy season is over. As such, the petals now symbolize the beginning of spring and are therefore associated with themes of renewal.
Despite their relatively recent introduction to European and American gardens, lilacs have been bestowed all manner of meanings by different cultures. In Greek mythology, for instance, the purple flowers featured in the story of Pan, the god of fields, flocks and forests. Like lilacs, Pan is associated with spring, largely thanks to his relationship with fertility.
As the story goes, Pan was infatuated with a nymph called Syringa. However, she feared the god’s affections and fled from him through a forest. As Pan pursued the nymph, she attempted to disguise herself by transforming into a lilac bush. But according to Greek lore, Pan stumbled upon the bush and broke off a branch. Then he used it to fashion the very first panpipe. So, both Syringa and the lilac’s botanical name are derived from “syrinks,” which is the Greek word for pipe.
But the Greeks aren’t the only culture to hold the lilac plant in high regard. That’s right, the plant’s sweet scent led the Celtics to perceive it as “magical.” Meanwhile, the Victorians saw the lilac as a symbol of old love. It therefore wouldn’t have been uncommon to see a widow wearing the flower back then. And in Russia, parents waved the plant over their newborn children, believing it would impart wisdom.
While lilacs as a whole are associated with confidence and, of course, renewal, each color has its own meaning in turn. And those significations often match those of the colors themselves. White lilacs are linked with innocence and purity, for instance. Blue lilacs, meanwhile, are said to represent tranquility – just as the color blue itself is associated with calm and stability.
There are instances where the flower’s meaning does not match its color, however. For instance, magenta lilacs are thought to represent passion and love. Traditionally, though, those feelings are more closely linked to red, while magenta is usually a color of balance and harmony. In the same vein, purple is thought to symbolize luxury, power and nobility, while purple lilacs are associated with spirituality.
And some lilacs simply carry no meaning at all. That’s the case for the rare yellow variant of the flower, which is known as Syringa vulgaris “Primrose.” You see, it was first introduced in 1949 but remains much rarer than the lilac’s other colors. When it first blooms, Primrose’s color is subtle. However, it becomes more intense as the years go on.
No matter their color, though, lilacs have inspired many an artist over the generations. For example, both Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh created impressionist works based on the flowers in the late 19th century. And decades earlier, Walt Whitman penned the poem “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” in remembrance of the late Abraham Lincoln.
While they have deep roots in U.S. history and beyond, lilacs admittedly aren’t the perfect plant. For one, their bushes often grow into strange shapes. Then, about halfway through summer, the majority of lilacs attract an aesthetically unpleasant gray mildew. And once the flowers have finished blooming, what’s left of the plant is even less appealing.
Furthermore, lilac bushes won’t do much for your home landscaping in the colder months. Without their beautiful flowers, they’re rendered rather lifeless, you see. So perhaps the best place to plant them, then, is in the backdrop of your shrubbery. That way, when they’re done flowering, they can simply fade away – perhaps making way for roses, which typically bloom later than lilac.
And while lilacs are typically easy to grow, you could find them a struggle, particularly if the weather isn’t great. Without enough sunlight – around six hours every day – your plants simply may not flower. Equally, you could experience issues if you fail to trim back the older stems after they’ve flowered. That’s because you need younger stems to produce more next year.
If your lilacs are getting plenty of sunlight, and only young stems are protruding from the bush, then all is well. But if you’re still not seeing any flowers come spring, it may be worth checking the soil around the plant. With too much fertilizer, the bush will likely only produce leaves and relatively few flowers – so it’s worth keeping an eye on the nitrogen content of the soil.
Lastly, you’ll need to ensure that the lilacs have plenty of room to grow, so plant the bushes around eight feet apart. Regardless of whether your lilacs bloom properly, though, they’re unlikely to die altogether. And that means the bushes often outlive not only the gardener who planted them but even the property that they were planted at. Indeed, if you pass a lonely lilac bush on a country road, it means there was likely a house close by at one point.
More specifically, though, it’s likely that this house or farm would have been complete with an outhouse. Yes, a century ago, farmers would plant sweet-smelling lilac bushes next to their outhouses. And as you can imagine, the intention was that the fragrant flowers would overpower the smelly odor that emanated from the small shed.
However, because lilacs don’t bloom for very long, their usefulness was limited in this regard. Their scents would last for just two weeks – but that wasn’t the only use for the bushes. When an outhouse was full, a farmer would uproot the building and move it further down. And when they did this, they’d plant a fresh bush in the filled hole – which is why you might now find lilac groves on the edge of old farmland. So, you could even say that the flower was used as nature’s air freshener.
There is one other meaning behind the lilac bush – and it’s rather heartbreaking. Yes, they weren’t always used for such practical purposes as masking outhouse smells. And nor were they ever truly decorative – as park manager Chris Orange told Indiana-based news blog OrangeBean in January 2020, “They didn’t spend much time a hundred years ago bothering with landscaping. That’s a pretty recent thing.”
Lilac bushes, you see, were often planted a century ago as a means of respectfully marking a miscarriage. Indeed, they were usually planted at graves, which were either simply symbolic or they would mark where the placenta would be buried following a birth. In both instances, however, they were a way in which grieving couples could help to work through their emotions.
Sadly, when a tragic event such as a miscarriage occurs, it can be difficult to process. As Rachelle J. Christensen, author of the 2010 book Lost Children: Coping with Miscarriage, wrote on her blog in 2011, “It’s important to take the time you need to heal and enlist the help of others. In the event of a miscarriage, some people may not want to give you any grieving time. They will expect you to be 100 percent a few days later.”
Christensen’s blog, therefore, lists a few ways people can process their grief. And one particular example calls back to the method employed by those homesteaders a hundred years ago. “Plant a lilac bush or a tree, and tell yourself that as this tree grows, so will you continue to grow in strength and courage to face each day,” she wrote.
What’s more, lilac bushes aren’t the only plant Christensen has recommended for grieving couples. While the plants are very low maintenance, they’re not for everyone – and nor does everyone have access to a garden. “I have African Violets that are ten years old and a variety of houseplant that is thirteen years old that requires very little maintenance and grows beautifully,” she wrote.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Czukas suggested a long list of potential memorial garden flowers for pregnancy website Verywell Family in 2018. Among them is the white lilac, of course, which Czukas notes typically symbolizes “youthful innocence [and] memories.” But she also recommends a number of alternative plants, each with their own individual significance.
For instance, lilies can mean “faith, grace, and spiritual healing,” wrote Czukas. Or, you could opt for fuchsia, which apparently symbolizes “harmony, healing for those who grieve, [and] angels.” Most importantly, though, Czukas recommends thinking about a variety of factors before deciding what to plant. “For example, you might consider the types of flowers that grow best in your region and the size of your memorial garden,” she explained.
Not everyone will choose to have a full memorial garden, however. Indeed, one user of parenting website BabyCenter described their alternative plans in 2012. “I thought it would be nice to… plant a tree, so it’s a memorial but also planted in something that represented life,” wrote mmh06. “I am thinking of planting an oak tree. They last a long time, they’re sturdy (how sad would I be if the tree died), and they have resurrection ferns.”
Sadly, though, planting a tree may not be viable if you’re planning to move in the future. In that case, then, it may be a better idea to opt for something that can be easily transported, such as a potted plant. For example, in 2015 Mumsnet user shovetheholly suggested, “a white standard rose, symbolizing innocence. This could be underplanted with other plants that have symbolic meaning: bellflowers (campanula) for loss, snowdrops, for consolation or hope.”
All those suggestions are perfectly valid, of course. However, it’s the classic, common lilac bush that was used a century ago to mark miscarriages. So the next time you pass a row of the hardy flowers, you may feel bound to pay your respects. For they may well denote a place where a couple once endured a tragic loss.
Aside from lilac bushes, however, there’s another purple object that you may want to look out for in the countryside. And it has an altogether different meaning to the pretty plant. Indeed, if you spot a purple fence while traveling through certain American states, you should be incredibly cautious.
Taking a walk around a quiet rural area can be a good way to relax from the stresses and strains of life. Even if you just have 20 minutes to spare before returning to your packed to-do list, getting in amongst nature can lift your mood and make you feel ready to face the rest of the day. But if you spot a purple fence on your travels, you should be incredibly wary. In fact, if you were to get too close to that fence, your life could even be in danger.
If you frequent the great outdoors on a regular basis, however, you may be used to seeing random oddities from time to time. Some may even say that this is part of what makes those treks so satisfying; after all, you never know what may be around the corner.
While out and about, then, you may see the odd splash of color on certain landmarks. And if those marks are on trees, they could hold a variety of different meanings; a orange stripe or two, for example, typically signals that the tree will be cut down. You should take particular note, however, if you stumble across a fence featuring a dash of purple.
Yes, in the state of Texas, more and more people are marking their fence posts and trees with vertical purple lines. But this hasn’t been done for decorative purposes, nor is the color a stylistic choice to brighten things up. In fact, this particular marker needs to be taken very seriously by those who happen to cross it.
Around the world, there are countless people who love the idea of going traveling – whether that’s in a group or by themselves. After all, experiencing another culture firsthand can be incredibly fulfilling if you get the chance. And while soaking in the sights in a city may be an obvious choice for a trip, making your way to a more rural setting could be just the ticket, too.
Naturally, many states in America continue to pull in tourists from far and wide. Thanks to its temperate climate and many attractions, California is typically a big draw for sightseers; Florida and New York each pull in a good deal of people, too. But all those visitors may well notice a few unusual signs during their journeys.
As previously mentioned, an orange spot on a tree signifies that the specimen in question is due to be chopped down. A yellow marker, by contrast, serves as a warning to passers-by, as that particular tree will bear a pungent fruit called ginkgo.
Sidewalks can also possess random dashes of color. If these are pink or orange, for instance, then that indicates a new tree will be planted in that very area. Then, as some may already know, the U.S. has a certain color code for its various utility lines.
Should you stumble upon a red stripe on the ground, for example, this means an electric power line is just below the surface. A green marker, on the other hand, highlights the location of a sewer or drain, while a splash of blue indicates a water pipe nearby. That’s not all, though, as we’re about to discover.
You see, white markers may also be found on the street – although these shouldn’t be confused with the standard white lines that often lie in the middle of the road. In this case, the streaks trace potential evacuation routes if an emergency should arise.
Then there may be colorful marks on the road – and these are ones that drivers in the U.S. need to know in order to travel safely. Perhaps the most famous example, of course, is the double yellow line, which serves a highly important purpose.
Most vitally, the double yellow line helps separate the two lanes of traffic on the road. And as those who often travel by car in the U.S. know, a driver must watch out for such a marking if they feel the need to overtake one of the vehicles in front of them. If you power over the line when trying to get around another car, after all, you’ll be breaking the law.
But drivers in New Jersey had to contend with the emergence of yet another new sign in 2016. Yes, in fall of that year, residents of Mahwah noticed something different on the road. It seemed, in fact, that the famous double yellow line had been given a strange makeover.
In particular, a new blue line had been painted between the two yellow ones – and this may have baffled plenty. You see, with a new color in play, locals didn’t know if the standard rules still applied. For starters, blue markings on the road are more typically used for the benefit of disabled motorists.
And the confusion in New Jersey only continued to grow as two more colors were subsequently introduced. In the town of Dumont, a red marking was added to the center of a road. Then, further down the street, a green stripe was seen filling in the gap between the double yellow lines.
At that point, motorists across the state may well have been desperate for some answers. Yet as it turned out, these additional colors didn’t indicate any changes to the rules of the road; instead, they had been painted to honor a number of very special people in the community.
Specifically, a female resident of Mahwah had wanted a tribute to be paid to local law enforcement. And ultimately her wish was granted with that blue line, which had been applied on the road on which the town’s police department is based.
After that, several other communities in New Jersey looked to follow suit. And when the new markings turned up in Mantua, the community police responded with a heartfelt statement on their Facebook page. The message explained, “The blue line is a symbolic reference to law enforcement.”
The statement continued, “[The line] describes the concept that the police are what stand between the victimizers and would-be victims. Our hope is that it serves as a reminder that we are here to help, and [we] will do what we can to intervene to keep you and your loved ones safe.”
What’s more, the blue line craze ultimately inspired officials to honor some of the other sectors of the emergency services. Yes, that previously mentioned red line was added to the road for the local fire department; the green one, meanwhile, was put in place to order to champion the efforts of paramedics.
But while those dashes of color ultimately had positive connotations, that’s not always the case. For instance, if you happen to visit Arizona, Idaho or Montana, you may catch sight of some orange markers. And at that stage, you should probably watch your step, as this vibrant hue could serve as a warning.
Why? Well, it’s been reported that landowners in those states may use orange paint as a way to mark their territory. You’ll be trespassing on private property, then, if you go past the item with the paint on. And while, to some, that may seem like a rather unusual way to protect land, the concept is far from a new one.
Back in 1987, the state of Arkansas passed what was at the time a unusual law. Alongside the installation of more traditional signs, homeowners were given permission to paint objects on their land a certain color as a means of warning passers-by. That way, someone would know if they’d strayed on to private property by mistake.
Nine more states subsequently followed Arkansas’ lead, with Florida, Missouri, Kansas and North Carolina legally protecting homeowners through the paint method. And in 1997 yet another major state adopted the statute, as we’re about to discover.
Yes, Texas embraced the law that year. Unlike Arizona, Idaho and Montana, however, purple was the color of choice in the Lone Star State, just as it was in Arkansas and the other locations. So, why exactly did the Texas authorities settle on that particular hue?
Well, Ashley Pellerin, who works at Prairie View A&M University, offered up a potential explanation as well as addressing an additional issue. Around 12 months after the law was passed in Texas, you see, homeowners found that trespassers weren’t getting the message. In fact, they were ignoring both the signs to stay away and the purple stripes.
Ultimately, then, an adjustment was made to the Purple Paint Law. Specifically, landowners were no longer required to hang up a “No Trespassing” sign; instead, the paint by itself was good enough. “[The paint] holds the same weight, and the same law violations apply,” Pellerin told Inquisitr in 2016. “It’s no trespassing, period.”
Pellerin also speculated as to why purple was the color of choice in this instance. “A lot of people who are colorblind… can actually see the color purple,” she explained. “So I believe that’s why it was chosen.” That said, if a Texas resident wanted to be covered by this unique law, they had to follow some specific instructions.
In fact, data-gatherers the Central Texas Geocachers have neatly outlined what needs to be done in order to comply with the Purple Paint law. The group revealed, “[The paint marking] must be vertical, at least eight inches long [and] at least one inch wide. [The] bottom of the mark should be between three to five feet above the ground.”
The Geocachers further explained, “[Purple paint] markings can be no more than 100 feet apart in timberland. Markings can be no more than 1,000 feet apart on open land, [and] they must be in a place visible by those approaching the property.”
But the purple stripes in Texas don’t just serve as a deterrent to normal trespassers. In addition, the markings act as a way of warning off local hunters from stepping on to the property, which in turn protects the homeowner from any possible gunfire. But despite all of the regulations that have been put in place, one major issue still remains.
You see, regardless of the unique warning signs, some individuals continue to trespass on private property. Brad Clark – a game warden in the Lone Star State – told Inquisitr, “People hunting or fishing without the landowner’s consent is a common issue. Often they ignore posted signs and purple paint.”
In other cases, though, people are simply unaware of what the purple paint signifies, and Rudy Fernandez touched upon this fact in 2016. Known as the “One-Armed Outdoorsman,” Fernandez fronted a video that year for Texas radio station KEAN-FM that sees him talk at length about the Purple Paint Law.
After diving into the background of the regulation, Fernandez then segues into one of his own encounters with purple-marked areas in Texas. Standing next to a fence post, the host says, “Sure enough, I’ve been out with a couple of my friends here recently.”
Fernandez continues, “And [my friends] said, ‘Man, what’s up with all these purple posts? People love the color purple!’ Know what it means. Stay safe and stay out of trouble. It’s [called] ‘No Hunting Purple.’ You can mark your posts with it.”
“So if you see [a fence in Texas] and this color purple shows up on fence posts or gate posts, it means no trespassing [and] no hunting,” Fernandez adds. “Abide by it. It’ll keep you alive in the Lone Star State, and it will certainly keep you out of trouble!” With that, the short clip comes to a close.
This video was subsequently uploaded to KEAN-FM’s official YouTube channel in March 2016, and since then it’s earned over 66,000 views on the site. The clip has generated a number of comments, too, with YouTube users sharing their responses to the unusual color-based law.
One commenter wrote, for example, “I saw this a lot in North Carolina also. Never saw it before then, as I grew up in Wisconsin. No one knew what it was for in my group, but no one in the group was any kind of outdoorsman, either! Good to know moving forward.”
And as that individual implies, ignorance of this particular law isn’t just restricted to Texas; Missouri has faced this problem before as well. Indeed, David Carlisle from the Missouri Department of Conservation has explained that some people there didn’t know about the purple fences, either.
However, Carlisle still believed that the method was a success for the most part. Speaking to KNPN in 2014, he said, “It’s a really good law. We don’t often see one that everybody can look at and kinda go, ‘You know what? That makes sense.’ And the purple paint is something that’s kind of universal. It’s taking on across the nation.”
So, it’s important to know exactly what a purple fence post signifies, as ignoring that message could land you in jail – or even worse. But there are other unusual – and less threatening – sights that you may come across while going about your day. Take green lights, for example. And there’s a good explanation as to why homeowners up and down the U.S. have taken to bathing the outsides of their houses in this vibrant color.