Syringa vulgaris (common lilac) is a species of flowering plant in the olive family, native to the Balkan peninsula of Southeastern Europe. Lilacs became very popular and cultivated throughout all of Europe before being brought to America, probably during the early 17th century Puritan settlements in New England. They were later known to be a favorite of Founding Fathers Washington and Jefferson. To this day, lilacs are adored for their early blooming inflorescences that are richly colored with uplifting fragrance — symbolic of life’s potential for renewal and fresh starts. No other flowering shrub has garnered such admiration, which is why lilac festivals span the country from coast to coast in May. Although on opposite sides of the continent, both New York’s Rochester and Washington’s Spokane lay claim to the title of America’s preeminent “lilac city.” Each holds annual week-long events to celebrate the blossom season.