May Flora Spotlight:
Magnolia Collection at the Botanical Gardens
When we think of magnolias the first image that comes to mind is the Magnolia grandiflora or the evergreen Southern Magnolia. This image is
everywhere – as paintings, cards, on everyday ware such as plates, mugs, tea pots, decorative linens, tee shirts.
At the Botanical Gardens you can also view the lesser know native Magnolias
of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Maybe one of the reasons for their uncommonness is that they are deciduous and not as showy all year
long as the grandiflora. Magnolia fraseri, also called mountain magnolia,
was named for John Fraser (1750-1811), Scottish botanist, who introduced many North American plants to Europe. This species is fairly common in
the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Plant this fast-growing small tree as an ornamental in your landscape and enjoy the large (9”-12”wide)
fragrant, creamy white flowers. This tree does well in a rich, moist slightly acid soil. It blooms well in partial shade. In late summer and fall the red
seed cones are stunning.
Magnolia macrophylla has leaves that are the largest deciduous leaf
outside the tropics, with lengths reaching 32 inches and widths of 12 inches. The flowers are fragrant and are pollinated by insects. Look for the
red seed cones in September. I love to watch little children in the fall when they pick up the fallen leaves that are sometimes as big as they are.
Magnolia tripetala or umbrella-tree is an uncommon but a widespread
deciduous native small tree with large, simple, tropical-looking leaves. This understory tree is usually found in rich forests. The leaves resemble
umbrellas in that they are large and clustered at the ends of branches. White musk scented spring flowers are vase shaped .For best results plant
in filtered sunlight in a sheltered location.
Although grandiflora is very common in southern garden it’s great for the
very attractive dark green, shinny leaves with the cinnamon-brown hairy underside. Use these leaves for decorating.
This tree thrives in rich, moist, well-drained soils and the flowers are very
fragrant. After you plant Magnolia grandiflora in your landscape for year
round interest, consider adding deciduous magnolias to your collection.