Tales of Our Trees

Star Magnolia

Spring is nearly here, and we can look forward to all the flowering trees and shrubs in our Arboretum.

One of the earliest is the Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata) at the circle near the barn. No. 68 on the Arboretum South Loop, it is a small deciduous tree or shrub native to Japan, although our tree is a large specimen. It was probably planted in the mid 70’s and is thus 45-50 years old.

Star Magnolia is noted for its large, showy white flowers that bloom in early spring before the leaves appear. The flowers emerge from fuzzy, pussy willow-like buds. Go now to see and feel these buds! The 3-4” white flowers are star-shaped, with at least 12 thin, delicate petal-like tepals. The trees produce a reddish-green, knobby aggregate fruit about 2 in. long that matures and opens in early autumn. Mature fruit opens by slits to reveal orange-red seeds. The fruits often drop before developing fully, and are eaten by a number of birds and animals. (Also of interest, and clearly seen in the winter, are two squirrel dreys (nests).

We also have a native Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) on the circle, No. 65, which flowers in late spring or early summer. And we have a spectacular Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia x soulangeana) to the west of the Farmhouse, in fact, almost the size of the Farmhouse! There are also three US-Asian hybrids Magnolia 'Yellow Bird' with large yellow flowers near Parking Lot 3.

We now have six kinds of native magnolias in the Arboretum collection among a total of some 35 magnolia trees on the Kendal campus.

Martin Wells and Judy Czeiner, Photographer


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