The Magnolia Family
25+ years ago, I was new to botanical illustration and studying at the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) when I discovered the beautiful and unusual flowers of the Tulip Tree that took my breath away. Tulip Tree and Magnolia seed pods are also fascinating! (If you’ve ever seen Dick Raugh’s large paintings of Tulip Tree seed pods, you know what I mean.) When I learned that the Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipfera) is the only other genus in the Magnolia Family, it was time to add the Magnolia Family to my Plant Family Portrait series.
After the snow melts, blooming Magnolias give us hope that spring is finally here, the light at the end of winter’s long tunnel, even while neighboring trees are still barren and leafless. We don’t really grow Magnolia to eat, though their petals are edible. In fact, the Tulip Tree flowers are literally dripping with nectar and delicious to taste!
Fun Fact: This majestic family is one of the oldest flowering plants on the planet! Magnolia trees grow so tall and straight that Indigenous people used them to craft canoes.
Plants in the Magnolia Family share these traits:
Petals and sepals look alike
6 petals or more
Many stamens spirally arranged around a cone like center with many pistils
Alternate simple leaves
Some of the seed cones have seeds suspended from threads
Plants depicted in this Plant Family Portrait:
Loebner’s Magnolia – Magnolia x loebneri
Star Magnolia – Magnolia stellata
Saucer Magnolia – Magnolia x soulangeana
Pastel Sunset Magnolia – Magnolia ‘Pastel Sunset’
Genie Magnolia – Magnolia x soulangeana ‘Genie’
‘Yellow Sun Magnolia’- Magnolia ‘Yellow Sun’
Siebold’s Magnolia – Magnolia sieboldii
Sweetbay Magnolia – Magnolia virginiana
Southern Magnolia – Magnolia grandiflora
Tulip Tree – Liriodendron tulipifera
My goal with this series of Plant Family Portraits is to deepen people’s awareness of plants and gain an understanding of plant details to help combat “Plant Blindness.” An appreciation for biodiversity is an important part of our wellbeing. May we all delight in nature’s fascinating architecture and colors, appreciate our environment, and how precious it is to protect.
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