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June Jewels

Top 2 on left: Star Anise (Illicium) and the rest are Magnolia

June brings in late spring/summer blossoms of some unique and special collections of London Town. Following the Dogwood and Kalmias, the Illiciums and late blooming Magnolias add the extra depth of layers to the beautiful cool woodland gardens that are full of dappled shade.

Illicium's (Star Anise) name is derived from the Latin word allurement, rightly so for the lingering aroma that comes from the leaves and fruit. In the botany world, Illiciums are highly valued considering their evolution and origin.

Calling them primitive angiosperm would almost be a misnomer. They belong to the group of the very first angiosperms (flowering plants). "Illicium is a member of the ANITA grade and as such represents one of the basal most lineages of flowering plants."

"There are about 40 species of Illicium. Culinary star anise is the species, Illicium verum, or Chinese star anise which adds a flavor of licorice to drinks and dishes, while other species of star anise such as Illicium anisatum are toxic if ingested."

Another jewel of June in the gardens is the last blooming Magnolia, M. hypoleuca. A large white blossom with beautiful large leaves, make it a prefect Magnolia for a woodland garden.

But an even more unique and rare Magnolia to bloom this July at London Town is Magnolia ashei. Our newest addition to the gardens, this Magnolia is native but is facing habitat loss.

"Native to the Panhandle. This small tree is relatively unknown because of its rarity. Ashe magnolia, Magnolia macrophylla var. ashei, is native in only a few counties in the Florida panhandle and is endangered because of this limited distribution. It is primarily found on the slopes of ravines, growing in the understory of mixed hardwood forest. While it is now illegal to remove this plant or its seeds from the wild, nurseries can grow this plant using seeds from long-cultivated landscape trees. Ashe magnolia makes a lovely small flowering tree if planted in the right location. It grows best in rich, well-drained soil under partial shade, although full sun is tolerated if plants are irrigated during drought"

Come and enjoy these June jewels of London Town while their fragile blooms last.

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