Magnolia is a genus of about 150 species of the family Magnoliaceae, found mainly in the eastern North America, Central America and southeast Asia.
The genus was named for Pierre Magnol (1638 - 1715) of Montpellier, France; a doctor and botanist who was one of the innovators of the current botanical scheme of classification.
Magnolia is an ancient genus. Having evolved before bees appeared, the flowers developed to encourage pollination by beetles. As a result, the carpels, or female reproductive organs of Magnolia flowers are tough to avoid damage. Fossilised specimens of M. acuminata have been found dating to 20 million years ago, and of plants identifiably belonging to the Magnoliaceae back to 95 million years ago. Another primitive aspect of Magnolias are their lack of distinct sepals or petals. The term tepal has been coined to refer to the intermediate element that Magnolia has instead.
The leaves are evergreen, simple and broadly ovate, 12-20 cm long and 6-12 cm broad, with smooth margins. They are dark green, stiff and leathery, and often scurfy underneath. They will bronze, blotch, and burn in severe winters at the northern limits of cultivation, but most still cling until they are replaced by new foliage in the spring. Two extremes are known, with leaves white underneath and with leaves brown underneath. The brown variety is claimed to be more cold-hardy than the white variety, but this does not appear to be proven as yet.
My tree is a strong reminder of the part of my childhood spent in South Carolina, as is the occaisional and unmistakeable scent of honeysuckle sometimes found here. It is quite messy, the leaves dropping in summer followed by the seed pods, spiny grenades 1 1/2" - 3" long, that litter the lawn. The lemon scented flowers are lovely, but too intense indoors. Its wide, shallow root-mat makes the tree a serious water stealer and the lawn and drain pipe suffer accordingly.
A true Southern Belle, the world revolved entirely around this cat and she took it as simply her due. She semed to epitomize Cat in her courtships, her affections and stunning, entirely unconscious arrogance.