What's blooming? Magnificent Magnolias!

Magnolias are an especially fascinating genus of flowering plants. With over 200 species in the genus, the magnolia is thought to be one of the first flowering plants to evolve, even before bees! Coniferous species existed before flowering plants and it is easy to imagine that magnolias descended from conifers as the seed pods generally look a great deal like a pine cone. In fact, the evolution of flowers is still a mystery unsolved, but it is believed that in the case of magnolias, that the flowers evolved to attract and encourage pollination by beetles.

Magnolias are popular for their showy blossoms, early in spring. The genus is made up of a wide variety of species, both evergreen and deciduous. Specimen size also varies with some species like M. virginiana more like a shrub, and M. acumenata aka Cucumber magnolia which can grow to be a giant tree. Easily identified by its “fuzzy” buds in the off-season, magnolias are seldom browsed by deer who dislike the bud’s hairy fuzziness. The fruit or pods develop when the flowers are pollinated and can be seen beginning to form within the flower as the petals fade and drop off, their work of “attraction” now done. Horticulturalists have developed a stunning array of hybrids including several in the Wakefield Estate Arboretum’s collection. One particularly stunning cultivar is ‘Elizabeth,’ which boasts a spectacular display of yellow blooms in early May.

elizabeth Magnolia 'Elizabeth'

magnolia1 magnolia Magnolia_stellata

 

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