Creating a wildlife haven one plant at a time

Friday, May 27, 2011

Magnolia: A Perfect Flower

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.

7 comments:

  1. What a great post and photos - I learned lots of new things about magnolias, including the pollination by beetles. I love the giant blooms - so fragrant, too. I planted one two years ago but it is too small to bloom yet ...

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  2. I love Magnolias. Didn't know that about the beetles either. Nice photos.
    Cher

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  3. Magnolias bloom here, but not the one you have shown. It really is a pretty variety. Your photos of it at different stages are lovely.

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  4. Thank you Sheila and Sunray Gardening!

    GWGT, The blooms I show in this post is from a Little Gem Magnolia. I love their large crisp white blooms.

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  5. I love magnolias, having lived in MS, AR, TX, and SC. I have two paintings of them in my living room! :o) I had no idea that they were pollinated by beetles! That is really cool!!

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  6. Very informative post with great photos. The tepal shot and the series of blooming shots were especially wonderful.

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  7. Karin, your photos of this bloom are stunning! Gosh I love Magnolias so much, my tulip Magnolia has now had its last bloom and is covered in leaves. Another year to wait for its blooms to come back =( Maybe I'll try one of these southern varieties to have a longer bloom time with my favorite tree. Great post!

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"Don't wait for someone to bring you flowers. Plant your own garden and decorate your soul"

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