Pierre Magnol and the Magnolia

The Magnolia is the Star of the Garden Spring

Every year in spring, a beautifully growing tree develops into the star in our garden, the magnolia.

From now on, when I see them, I will also think of the French botanist Pierre Magnol, who introduced the concept of family for related plant groups into botany.

I think the magnolia fits perfectly into the Bergisches Land here in Northrhine-Westfalia, Germany, like no other flowering tree. The contrast between the bright pink and pink flowers and the grey, almost black slate is beautiful, contrasting and lively.

M. × soulangeana

The Tulip Magnolia

The magnolia is not so much captivating because of its fragrance as because of its blaze of colour, which is evenly distributed over the entire tree. As in many gardens in Wuppertal, we also have a tulip magnolia (M. × soulangeana). This cross between M. denudata and M. liliiflora flowers early in the year and is somewhat sensitive to frost.

It was probably the Pauline monk Charles Plumier, born in Marseille on 20 April 1646, who "discovered" the species during one of his three great expeditions for the French King Louis XIV, which also took him to the Caribbean. He named the genus Magnolia after the French botanist Pierre Magnol. He also named other genera after important botanists, such as the Bauhinias (orchid trees) after the brothers Johann Bauhin and Caspar Bauhin, the Lobelias after the Flemish botanist and physician Matthias de L'Obel (Lobelius) and the Fuchsias after the German physician and botanist Leonhart Fuchs. Plumier left 6000 drawings, of which about 4300 are representations of plants. Here is a drawing of genus Magnolia from 1703.

Pierre Magnol was born on 8 June 1638 in Montpellier, France, and was a French botanist. From an early age he developed an interest in the botany of his immediate surroundings and devoted himself to the flora of the Languedoc and the Cévennes. In 1689, he published what is probably his most important work, "Precursors to the General History of Plants, in which the families of plants are arranged in tables". For the first time in the history of botany, related groups of plants were called "families". Magnol died in Montpellier on 21 May 1715.

Pierre Magnol and the Magnolia - M. × soulangeana, the tulip magnolia. Photo: Nikon D800e with Nikkor 85mm 1.8
M. × soulangeana, the tulip magnolia. Photo: Nikon D800e with Nikkor 85mm 1.8

I find the magnolia very suitable as a garden tree for another reason. It flowers before the leaves emerge. This means that the tree does not shade the house much in early spring and you can benefit from the sun as a source of warmth. The sun can already warm up the house. After flowering, the large-leaved foliage develops and the magnolia provides a pleasant, cooling shade.

For me, this makes it an ideal companion for the house.

tl, dr;

Every year at the beginning of April, the large tulip magnolia delights us with its splendour of flowers. 

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