So proud of my baby star magnolia! This is its third year. The first year it was one foot tall and gave me one lovely flower. Last year it grew a foot and made three flowers. This year it’s about three feet tall and has eight blooms. So very pretty and the flowers smell lovely in the bright sun.
Magnolias are an ancient family of flowering shrub or tree. Their leaves and blossoms are waxy. The plants evolved before bees developed so it is theorized that beetles or other walking, chewing insects pollinated them, hence the plant needed to be tough to withstand damage. In the photo above you can see the legs and feeler of a beetle on a petal. The flower form is very old. There are reports of fossil species from the magnolia family dating to nearly 130 million years ago. The dinosaurs enjoyed the magnolia’s fragrant show.
Star magnolias are robust and can survive the northern chill that would destroy their southern relatives. The flowers for the next season are formed during the summer and winter over in fuzzy little pods called bracts at the ends of the branches. This past winter the temperatures briefly dipped to twenty below zero with no apparent ill effects to the plant.
The tree blooms before the leaves develop, so the form is an open framework covered with large, bright white flowers. Each night the blooms close, much like a water lily. In the full sun they open and emit a powerful, delicious scent that vaguely reminds me of white pond lilies.
I sure hope my little tree continues to thrive. Many people in the area have star magnolias blooming on their lawns so I have every chance of success with mine. We live in a colder-than-average microclimate here at the farm so I keep my fingers crossed every winter.
Here are links to a couple interesting articles about magnolias: