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Botanist's Lens: Magnolia Canopies in the Sky

Magnolia stellata

Magnolia blossoms have now completely filled up the upper canopy layers at London Town. The age of the Magnolia trees in the ground is apparent because there isn't one location in the gardens, where you can glimpse at the sky without seeing the Magnolia blossoms.

The landscape design that original horticulturist Tony Dove established back in the 1970's featured over 50 Magnolias and many more were added over the time. London Town is home to the large leaf M. hypoleuca, the stunning M. wieseneri, M. stellata, M. 'Galaxy' and many other hybrids.

Magnolia stellata (left), Magnolia verbana (middle), and Magnolia wieseneri (right)

Magnolias are simply magnificent! They date back to over 120 million years ago and are one of the most primitive of all flowering plants. In my early Botany lab days, Magnoliaceae was the primary focus of study, because all of its plant parts are large enough and simple to study the basic morphology of Angiosperms-flowering parts. Lucky for me, I got to study the most fragrant M. champaca (5 times more fragrant than Gardenias).

Currently, we have over 75 Magnolias in the gardens that have new accession numbers, tags and correctly identified plant names. Thanks to the hardworking Horticulture staff Grace Washbourne and Master Gardener Cora Wade and many other volunteers, we were able to complete the identification process of Magnolias in the gardens, starting last fall to this spring. Now waiting for last few Magnolia blooms, M. 'Elizabeth' and 'Sunburst;' they are a soft yellow!

Jack in the Pulpit, Arisaema

Also, sharing with you today, the first Arisaema (Jack in the pulpit) peeking out in the dell, and of course, I couldn't help but add Cherry blossoms. Although, as pretty as the Cherry blossoms are this year, the Magnolia canopies are surely stealing the show. They seem to have loved the gradual spring that allowed each bloom to gently open up. Nothing is better than Magnolia canopies in spring!

Cherry Blossoms (Magnolia Galaxy on the left) and Cherry Blossoms close-up

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