May 4, 2022 - Things to Do

Des Moines lilacs get name tags

A photo of lilacs.

Des Moines is identifying each of the roughly 300 species of lilacs at the Ewing Park Lilac Arboretum. Permanent signage will be placed next year. Photos: Jason Clayworth/Axios

Des Moines will this month identify and label each of the roughly 300 varieties of lilacs grown at the Ewing Park Lilac Arboretum, Jennifer Fletcher, a parks spokesperson, tells Axios.

Why it matters: Ewing Park's arboretum is one of the nation's largest public collections of lilacs, with more varieties than the New York Botanical Garden, according to the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard University.

  • Identification of the park's roughly 1,000 lilac shrubs is essential for maintaining and diversifying plant species.

State of play: The arboretum was launched about 75 years ago by landscape architect John Wister. Lilacs in the "Wister loop" are arranged in contrasting adjacent colors, to help showcase them.

  • In 2019, Des Moines hosted the International Lilac Society's annual conference, where an expert encouraged the city to identify its collection. That work is now underway.

How it works: Temporary labels and tags will be added to each shrub by the end of this month, identifying its genus, species and variety/cultivar.

  • Permanent signage will be installed next year.

Of note: Identification will cost about $6,000. The price for permanent signage hasn't been determined.

Visit: Full bloom is typically around Mother's Day, but this year's cold spring has delayed them. Flowers last roughly two weeks.

  • 5300 Indianola Ave., Des Moines.

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