Philadelphus lewisii (Lewis' mock-orange) is a deciduous shrub native to western North America, from northwestern California in the Sierra Nevada, north to southern British Columbia, and east to Idaho and Montana. It is widespread but not very common, usually appearing as an individual plant amongst other species. It was first collected by Meriwether Lewis in 1806. Other common names include wild mock-orange (though this can apply to any species in the genus), and syringa, a name that usually refers to the unrelated lilacs.
The shrub is rounded and grows to 1.5 to 3 meters in height. It sends out long stems which are red when new and fade to gray with age, the bark shredding in small flakes. The oppositely arranged leaves vary in size across individual plants but they are usually oval, 3 to 5 centimeters long, smooth or serrated along the edges, and light green in color with a rough texture. The flowers are produced in clusters at the ends of long stems, with four white petals up to 4 centimeters long and numerous yellow stamens. At the height of flowering, the plant is covered in a mass of blossoms. The flowers have a heavy, sweet scent similar to orange blossoms with a hint of pineapple. The fruit is a small hard capsule about a centimeter long with woody, pointed wings, containing many brown seeds.
Native American tribes used P. lewisii for numerous purposes. The hard wood was useful for making hunting and fishing tools, snowshoes, pipes, and furniture. The leaves and bark, which contain saponins, were mixed in water for use as a mild soap.
Lewis' mock-orange prefers full sun to partial sun. It is drought-tolerant and will grow in poor soils, and provides a landscape with flashy flowers and a fruity scent.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Philadelphus lewisii.|