Magnolia

Magnolia is an evergreen tree, which is distributed across the southern part of North America, and grows from 20 to 30m in height.   It is the state flower of Mississippi and Louisiana States.   The tall tree, Magnolia has spacious branches that contain large blossoms and leaves.   This creates a calm and stout appearance.   This appearance matches the Japanese kanji translation for magnolia, which is Taisanboku.   Owing to this name in kanji, it is often thought that magnolia is native to China.   However, in reality, it is native to North America.  The magnolia tree was brought into Japan from North America in 1873.   Since then, it was planted in parks or other natural habitats to be widely cultivated.

After some time, the large magnolia tree became well integrated into Japanese scenery and became widely recognised throughout Japan.   In early summer, this magnolia tree blooms up towards heaven with large and pure-white blossom, which resembles the Mulan magnolia.   In addition, it releases a sweet scent.   These along with the calm, stout image have made the appearance of the taisanboku a kigo (the season word in haiku) for the early summer.

The leaves are arranged in an alternate pattern.   Each leaf is oblong-elliptical, has a stem and is 15 to 25cm in length and 4 to 10cm in width.   Its upper side is a glossy deep-green colour and its underside is densely covered with light-brown hairs.

Compared to other trees belonging to the genus Magnolia, such as Mulin magnolia, Kobushi magnolia, etc., this Magnolia blooms far later in June and July.   Each blossom withers in about 3 days but the blossoms bloom sequentially for about 1 month.   The large white blossom really stands out against the deep-green leaves.   However, it blooms upwards on the higher branches of the tree and therefore it often goes unnoticed.

Magnolia's white blossom is more than 20cm in diameter, which helps to release the good fragrance.   The blossom consists of 6 petals and 3 calyxes and has a bunch of pistils surrounding the stamens in its centre.   However, the number of petals can be more than 7.

The spindle-shaped bud opens in a pot-shape on the first flowering day.  At this time, the pistils are ready for pollination.   Whereas, the stamens are adhered to each other, where their anthers direct inwards and do not release pollen yet.   Before nightfall, the blossom almost shuts but does not close completely, the top remains slightly open.   At the time, 1 or 2 petals lean inwards to cover the pistils and stamens, as if the petals guard them.   On the second flowering day, the blossom opens to a dish-like state.   However, one of the inside petals does not open completely to stand erect, as if it guards the pistils and stamens.   At this time, the pistils have lost the ability to pollinate and have discoloured into brown.   However, the stamens expose the pollen to fall down onto the petals.   The blossom which has opened on the second flowering day continues to remain open throughout the night and on the third flowering day, it starts discolouring into brown.

The outside, lower stamens fall down first onto the tepals, sprinkling them in all directions.   At this time, an insect can fly onto the remaining erect stamens, almost covering its whole body with pollen.   Next, the insect will fly to another blossom that is in its first day of blooming, to pollenate it.   This is an ingenious mechanism in nature for conserving genetic diversity by avoiding self-pollination.

Magnolia produces an oblong-ellipsoid fruit in autumn.   The fruit is made up of multiple follicles, which contain pericarps (seed vessels).   Around November, the pericarp splits to release two redly ripened fruit, attached to a white string-like stem.   Each fruit contains a large black seed and white flesh.

Classification: Magnoliaceae Magnolia
Scientific name: Magnolia grandiflora L.
Japanese name: Taisanboku
English Name: Magnolia
Native locality: The southern part of North America
Ecological description: Ever green tree
RDB : ---
Planting place: Perennial Garden
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