Magnolia campbellii 'Strybing White' Photo by Joanne Taylor.
One of the glories of the Botanical Garden in winter are the Asiatic magnolias whose pink or white blossoms against a blue sky are freely visible as their leaves are still in bud stage. Among these is one of the Garden's most prized trees, Magnolia campbellii 'Strybing White', whose notable story began over 80 years ago.
In the early 1930s, the first director of the Garden Eric Walther ordered seeds of Magnolia campbellii, which were propagated in the Golden Gate Park Nursery. Those seeds came from G. Ghose and Company, a nursery in Darjeeling, India, in the foothills of the Himalayas. M. campbellii in the wild covers a wide range in the Himalayas from eastern Nepal, to the western part of Yunnan Province in China, and south to Myanmar. At elevations from 5000 to 9000 feet, trees reach 150 feet high and flowers vary in size and color. The trees that the Garden received from Ghose seeds reflected those variations in flower shape, size and color. Three of the original seedling trees have been given cultivar names to honor their distinctive characteristics. One of these is M. campbellii 'Strybing White'.
Magnolia campbellii takes 20 years to bloom from seed. In 1939, one of the Ghose seedlings was planted on the hill above the Moon Viewing Garden. When it finally bloomed, its white color and flower shape presented very differently from the usual pink and white colors and cup and saucer shape of M. campbellii. The white flowers were larger, with the upright, cup-like tepals covering the stamens and pistils; but the remaining outer tepals drooped – very un-saucer-like. It was striking enough to warrant a cultivar name, and Eric Walther dubbed it 'Strybing White' in 1961. This is the largest magnolia at the Garden, towering well over 80 feet. The spectacular twelve-inch white blossoms appear from January through March.
We are continually astounded that the relatively mild climate in San Francisco lends itself to successful growing of so many delicate and varied plants from the extreme elevations and conditions of the Himalayas.
||Magnolia campbellii 'Strybing White'
||Sun or partial shade; prefers deep, rich, well-drained soil and a location sheltered from wind. Late frosts can damage opening buds.
||February–March; trees flower only after 20 years.
||Large tree to 90' tall by 40' wide.
||This cultivar differs from the species in having larger, up to 12' white flowers with outer tepals that droop.
To ensure characteristics of 'Strybing White', plants must be grown from cuttings or grafted onto other trees. Young trees will not produce flowers for about 20 years; grafted trees 12-15 years.
Cultivar named in 1961 by Eric Walther.
IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS:
Text by Kathy McNeil and Mona Bourell. Photos by Joanne Taylor and David Kruse-Pickler.
Magnolia campbellii 'Strybing White' is located in the Temperate Asia Garden (Bed 7D), the Moon Viewing Garden (Bed 53H) and the
Rhododendron Garden (Bed 72D).
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