Magnolia

Magnolia x soulangeana

There are two magnolias in the Park, a pink white magnolia in the northwest triangle and a sweetbay magnolia in the southeast triangle. See Wikipedia entry for the genus here.
Magnolia is an ancient genus. Having evolved before bees appeared, the flowers developed to encourage pollination by beetles. Fossilized specimens have been found dating to 20 million years ago, and fossils of plants belonging to the family Magnoliaceae dating to 95 million years ago. Another primitive aspect of magnolias is their lack of distinct sepals or petals.
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Pink white magnolia in northwest triangle in July
Magnolia x soulangeana factoids:
  • It is a hybrid developed in 1820 by Etienne Soulange-Bodin in France. He crossed Magnolia denudata with Magnolia liliiflora. Cultivars like this hybrid do not breed true, i.e. the offspring could have variable characteristics looking more like one parent than the other. They are therefore bred by vegetative processes, like cuttings or grafts, to keep the same appearance through the generations.
  • The genus Magnolia and family Magnoliaceae are named after 17th century French botanist Pierre Magnol. His contribution to botany was developing the concept of plant families, groupings of plants based on common characteristics. This was a century before Linnaeus.
  • This tree is also called saucer magnolia, as well as other common names which can be applied to other trees of different species. The scientific names make sure we are all talking about the same tree.
Creamy pink white blossoms in late March
Waxy leaves and flower bud in July
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There are also some star magnolias (Magnolia stellata) just beyond the Park fence on the north side.
These, like the pink white magnolia, are some of the earliest bloomers in the Park, here shown in March. The shrubby trees alternating with the star magnolias are serviceberries (Amelanchier spp., also called Juneberries).
Botany 101 Bonus
 
Flowering plants, also called angiosperms, are the dominant plants on Earth today. When flowers first evolved 150-250 million years ago, what did it look like? Many experts believed it looked like a magnolia flower, and have called the magnolia a "living fossil," since it has existed unchanged for a very long time. See outside article here.
There is a bald cypress on the other side of the fence on the north edge of the Park, just east of the easternmost townhouse. It has fern-like soft needles and is a deciduous conifer with a normal range throughout the southern United States. This species is commonly mistaken for the dawn redwood, another deciduous conifer in the same family but in a different genus. The dawn redwood has also been described as a "living fossil." It was first described to science in 1941 based on fossil evidence only, and was thought to be extinct. In 1947 a small stand of dawn redwoods was found in southwest China, and seeds were brought to the United States and other countries. There is a stand of tall dawn redwoods in the Morris Arboretum in Chestnut Hill.
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Bald cypress in July on left and in March on right. It's bald in March.
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Subtle but tell-tale differences between dawn redwood on the left and bald cypress on the right.
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Fossils (?) of small branches and flower buds in the Park.
The dollop of bird poop is for scale.