A new woody plant selection, Summer Aspire Japanese Tree Lilac, was introduced by the North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station and the NDSU Research Foundation in 2017. The selection was developed by the NDSU Woody Plant Improvement Program under the direction of project leader Todd West, professor of plant science, and research specialist Greg Morgenson.
Summer Aspire (Syringa reticulata ‘SumDak’) is a tall, upright ornamental selection that grows in a narrowly oval form. It is much narrower in form and greater in height than cultivars generally found in the landscape. At maturity, it stands 30-35 feet tall with a spread of 14-16 feet.
Its foliage, flowers and fruit give the tree an attractive ornamental quality. Summer foliage is bright green and of good quality. Creamy white, fragrant flower clusters decorate the tree for several weeks in mid-summer. Clusters of tan fruit capsules persist through winter, adding seasonal interest.
The tree prefers full sun exposure, moist well-drained soil, and is adaptable to alkaline soils. It is hardy in USDA climatic zones 3-6. It is recommended for use as a boulevard, landscape, public grounds, parks, schools and golf course tree.
The NDSU Woody Plant Improvement Program has served the Northern Great Plains for more than 60 years, beginning germplasm trial evaluations in 1954. In 1974, NDSU purchased an 80-acre farm near Absaraka, North Dakota, to be established as the NDSU Horticulture Research Farm and began trial plantings that fall. Approximately 45 acres of the farm is used for evaluation, selection and breeding of woody ornamental plants.
The main portion of the research farm is the center 35-acre plot known as the Dale E. Herman Research Arboretum. Named after NDSU professor emeritus Dale E. Herman, who developed the program for nearly 40 years, the arboretum is the most extensive collection of woody ornamental plants in North Dakota and the Northern Great Plains.
NDSU woody plant introductions are being propagated for sale by commercial wholesale firms in four countries: Australia, Canada, England, and the United States. The project has introduced 55 superior woody plants for production and sale with increased disease tolerance and winter hardiness for landscapes.
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