A Southern garden just isn't complete without a magnolia tree. Historically its shiny evergreen leaves provided much needed shade to southern homesteads
while its large showy blooms added beauty and sweet smells. But the magnolia tree is actually the oldest flowering plant with its roots in the age of the dinosaurs.
Since it is older than our modern day pollinators, the bees, the magnolia bloom is actually pollinated by beetles.
The tepals, a primitive version of a sepal and a petal, is designed to accommodate beetles. The blooms do not produce nectar but attract the beetles with fragrant, sugary secretions. The pollen of these blooms are high in protein supplying the beetles with an excellent source of food.
The Magnolia bloom starts as a bud
which slowly opens
revealing the inner parts of the flower. Magnolia trees have a "perfect" flower which means that it has both male and female organs.
The fruit of the magnolia looks like a cone but is actually a woody aggregate fruit. The seeds are enclosed in the fruit during their development and are therefore angiosperms. Songbirds especially like the seeds that are covered in a red fleshy aril that is high in fat and provides migrating birds with the energy they need.
The magnolia is both the state flower and state tree of Mississippi. This is fitting since we are spending some time with family in Mississippi. I will be posting more of our gardening and nature adventures in the coming days.