Pink Magnolia

You can really test your powers of careful observation on these images of the glorious magnolia tree in full bloom. This is a long way from the boring creamy colour that is labelled ‘magnolia’ on paint colour charts! In fact there are 210 flowering species in the magnolia genus, resulting in a wider colour range than you might think. The family ‘Magnoliaceae’ is named after the French botanist Pierre Magnol (1638 – 1715), one of the prime inventors of the system of classifying plants in ‘families’. Magnol had nothing to do with magnolias himself, but in 1703 the botanist Charles Plumier sought to honour the great contribution of Magnol to science by naming after him the plants then found in Martinique.
One of the things that makes magnolias so striking is that they flower early before the leaves are on the trees. Being an ancient plant, (around 20 to 95 million years old), magnolias existed before bees, and it is thought the flowers evolved to encourage pollination by beetles. They grew wild in Asia, North, Central and South America, and in the West Indies. Hybridisation has been very successful in producing species for the garden, combining the best features of different species. However because they flower early in the year, magnolias are still subject to extreme weather and may not flower so well every year. Perhaps because of their striking appearance, magnolias have appeared in the title of at least two films : ‘Steel Magnolias’ (1989 fright movie) ; ‘Magnolia’ (1999 American drama); and is the name of a film distribution company, ‘Magnolia Films’.