Magnolia campbelliiCup and Saucer Magnolia
Magnolia campbellii. Photo by Joanne Taylor
Look high on the skyline of the Arboretum, east or west, and you'll see the flamboyant pink and white of Magnolia campbellii mingling with the evergreen treetops of cypress and pine. As early as December they begin to bloom, their distinctive "cup and saucer" shaped flowers appearing before the leaves. Magnolia campbellii is native to the Himalayas, growing at altitudes of 8,000–12,000 feet and reaching over 150 feet in height.
Considered to be one of the earliest flowering plants with fossils dating back 100 million years, magnolias were spread throughout the northern hemisphere before the latest ice age, along with ginkgos and redwoods. Flowering plants co-evolved with insects, resulting in tremendous diversity of both groups. Magnolias are pollinated mostly by beetles, one of the earth's oldest known insects. The stamens (male) and carpels (female) of magnolias are spirally arranged on an elongated axis and encircled by tepals, a combination of petals and sepals of the same color-also spirally arranged. This arrangement is characterized as a very primitive floral structure.
Today, of the over 245 species of magnolia, 80% occur in Asia. The remaining species can be found in the Americas, including the Caribbean. Magnolias grow in climates ranging from temperate to tropical. San Francisco's chilly fog and temperate ocean climate provides an environment where many of these species can thrive. We have 11 mature specimens of M. campbellii spread throughout the Garden including the very first of this species to bloom in the United States in 1940, which can be found in the Camellia Garden (Bed 58A).
||Sun or partial shade; prefers deep, rich, well-drained soil and a location sheltered from wind. Late frosts can damage opening buds.
||Mid-December to March
||Large tree to 80' tall by 40' wide
||The name 'cup and saucer' magnolia comes from the flower form where the innermost 4 tepals remain erect (the cup) to form a covering over the stamens and carpels, while the outer lateral tepals appear stiff and are positioned at a 90 degree angle (the saucer)
Young trees will not produce flowers for about 20 years; grafted trees 12-15 years
Discovered in Bhutan and named in honor of Dr. Archibald Campbell, a British political resident at Darjeeling
Magnolia campbellii is located in the Temperate Asia Garden (Beds 7D, 7E), the Camellia Garden (Beds 58A, 58C) and the Rhododendron Garden (73I, 73J, 73K.)
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IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS:
Photos by Docent Joanne Taylor; text by Docent Kathy McNeil; profile by Associate Curator David Kruse-Pickler