Wisteria, the South’s Answer to Mid-Western Lilacs.

Just lately, as spring has been awakening all around me, I’ve been missing lilacs. It’s foolish really, because the season of lilacs is still weeks away in my native Upper Midwest.

(I know this for a fact, because my husband’s telecommunication coworkers are bracing for ANOTHER snowstorm over the weekend.)

It’s also paradoxical, because the reason I love lilacs as much as I do is that they have always been, for me, a harbinger of real spring — a spring that will stay. (It never snows after the lilacs bloom in Minnesota.)

Here, in Carolina, it is already full spring. There are flowers everywhere. As I write this, it is 70 °F outside, and the forecast says we’ll see 80 °F by Sunday. It’s gorgeous.

But there will be no lilacs.


A few nights ago, hubs and I were walking to the Rialto cinema, in the Five Corners neighborhood of Raleigh. I was in a low mood, and lost in thought. My gaze was on the uneven sidewalk under my feet. We weren’t talking. Suddenly, he asked, “What was that?” I stopped. Looked around. “The smell,” he said.

I breathed in and a scent came to me — sweet, floral, lovely. My first thought was that it might be night blooming phlox, a favorite of mine.

I backtracked, sniffing the air. My nose led me to a jumble of botanical life that was crowding the walkway. I poked about. Finally I spotted a cluster of pale purple blooms, down near some gnarled, exposed roots, and half-hidden in a tangle of grasses and vines. I lifted the spray and it came loose into my hand. The flowerette structure was reminiscent of  lilacs, but these blossoms were bluer, and larger, and differently shaped — almost like miniature snapdragons.

I thought I knew what it was, but not certain.

I carried it with me to the theater. It laid on the seat next to me, perfuming the air, while I watched a movie I hated. (I do not recommend Isle of Dogs. It’s weirdly heartless, for an animated film about dogs.) While I waited in queue in the restroom after the show, I noticed a woman looking at the cluster. I held it up. “Do you know what this is?”

She smiled. “Wisteria, of course.”

Of course.

When hubs and I walked back to the car, we stopped and looked for more blooms. At first we couldn’t find any. We didn’t realize they would be far above our heads. When we finally looked up, we were awestruck. So. Many. Clusters. Thousands of them. On vines twined throughout the upper branches of the half-dozen mature trees that lined the boulevard.

All of them out of reach.


Two days later, my daughter and I were driving to the park near our apartment, taking a route we hadn’t taken before, when I saw the color of wisteria ahead.


This time, they were within reach … of my camera at least. (I couldn’t gather an armful of them to bring home as they are on someone’s property.)


Yes, these will do nicely as my new harbinger of lasting spring.


I will link to some other entries for the AWAKENING prompt below. (But right now I have to do a little grocery shopping.)


3 thoughts on “Wisteria, the South’s Answer to Mid-Western Lilacs.

  1. I adore wisteria, especially the way it hangs down from the beautiful oaks with shimmering spanish moss. But we DO have lilacs here in SC and I’m betting there are some in NC too. You just haven’t seen them yet!!


    1. The only place I’ve seen Spanish moss so far is near the coast, but I think it’s beautiful. Together with wisteria, I’m sure it’s gorgeous. I’m glad to hear that there are lilacs around. I’ll keep an eye out for them!


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