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How to Identify a Mock Orange

By Sarah Terry ; Updated September 21, 2017

The Syringa (Philadephus lewisii), or Mock orange, is a perennial deciduous shrub that’s native to the Northwestern United States, including California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. The Mock orange has been the official state flower of Idaho since 1931. You can find the Mock orange growing in full sun or partial shade along streams, rocky slopes and open hillsides. It most commonly grows at 7,000 feet elevation in the Northwest. Identify the Mock orange by its physical characteristics and the scent of its flowers.

Identify the Mock orange by its overall shape and size. The Mock orange is loosely branched and grows 3 to 12 feet tall.

Look at the flowers to identify the Mock orange shrub. The Mock orange’s flowers are white, about 1 inch wide, grow in clusters of three to 11 flowers and smell similar to orange blossoms. The blooms emerge in May or June.

Look for tiny, ¼-inch-long fruits to identify the Mock orange. The fruits are capsule-like and brown, with four “cells” in the capsules.

Identify the Mock orange by its leaves, which are green with slightly lighter undersides and are arranged opposite one another on the stems. The leaves are about 1- 3 inches long and 1-1 ½ inches wide, with just a few “teeth” on the leaf edges.

Study the bark to spot the Mock orange. Its bark is reddish-brown to grayish and peels readily into thin strips.



  • Look for slender opposite twigs that are light-brown or tan with dichotomous leaf-bearing characteristics. The Mock orange's twigs are sometimes slightly hairy as well.


  • Don't confuse the Syringa Mock orange with the Choisya ternata, which is also sometimes referred to as the Mock orange. The Choisya ternata's real common name is the Mexican Orange Blossom, however, and this a compact evergreen bush with yellowish-green leaves.

About the Author


Sarah Terry brings over 10 years of experience writing novels, business-to-business newsletters and a plethora of how-to articles. Terry has written articles and publications for a wide range of markets and subject matters, including Medicine & Health, Eli Financial, Dartnell Publications and Eli Journals.