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2017 Woody Plant Introduction Announced

A new woody plant selection was introduced by the North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station and the North Dakota State University Research Foundation in 2017. Summer Aspire™ Japanese Tree Lilac is a tall, upright selection that grows in a narrowly oval form. Its foliage, flowers and fruit give it an attractive ornamental quality. The selection was developed by the NDSU Woody Plant Improvement program under the direction of project leader Dr. Todd West and research specialist Greg Morgenson.

December 13, 2017

A new woody plant selection, Summer Aspire™ Japanese Tree Lilac, was introduced by the North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station and the North Dakota State University Research Foundation in 2017. The selection was developed by the NDSU Woody Plant Improvement program under the direction of project leader Dr. Todd West 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.

This tree prefers full sun exposure, moist well-drained soil, and is adaptable to alkaline soils. It is hardy in USDA climatic zones 3-6.

Summer Aspire™ is recommended for use as a boulevard, landscape, public grounds, parks, schools, and golf course tree.

About the NDSU Woody Plant Improvement Program

The NDSU Woody Plant Improvement Program has been serving the Northern Great Plains for over 60 years, beginning germplasm trial evaluations in 1954. In 1974, NDSU purchased an 80-acre farm near Absaraka, ND, to be established as the NDSU Horticulture Research Farm and began trial plantings that fall. This research farm provides ideal horticultural soil for evaluation and breeding projects for North Dakota. Approximately 45 acres of this 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 research arboretum is the most extensive collection of woody ornamental plants in North Dakota and the Northern Great Plains. It is a valuable resource for teaching, research and educational use.

NDSU woody plant introductions are currently being propagated for sale by commercial wholesale firms in four countries: Australia, Canada, England, and the United States (14 states, including 35 nurseries). This project has introduced 55 superior woody plants for production and sale with increased disease tolerance and winter hardiness for landscapes. The first introduction from the program (1986) was a flower bud hardy Forsythia hybrid, ‘Meadowlark’. This was a collaborative release with South Dakota State University, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University and the USDA North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station.

In 2012, several breeding programs were initiated focusing on magnolia, lilac, maple hybridizing and mutagenic breeding of several shrub species. The NDSU Woody Plant Improvement Program also serves as the northern site for the American Rose Trials for Sustainability (A.R.T.S), launched in spring 2014.

The goals of the NDSU Woody Plant Improvement Program are selection, evaluation and introduction of hardy superior woody plants for the landscape industry. For more information about the program, visit www.ag.ndsu.edu/plantsciences/research/woody-plants/.

Source: Todd West, 701-231-6476,
Editor: Kamie Beeson, 701-231-7123,

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