Magnolia Magic at UBC Botanical Garden

There is no missing these gorgeous flowering trees currently in bloom around Vancouver. No, I'm not talking about cherry blossoms. These are Magnolias! They bloom almost same time as the cherry blossoms but have huge flowers that are drop-dead gorgeous. Every time I see a Magnolia tree, I'm always in awe. They are my favourite flowering tree!

UBC Botanical Gardens hosted a couple "Magnolia Magic" walking tours on Saturday and I was pretty excited to see the trees in the garden. This was actually my first time entering the UBC Botantical Gardens!

Tree expert, Douglas Justice was our guide for the one hour tour around the UBC Botanical Gardens. He has been at UBC Botanical Garden since January 2000 and also teaches horticulture and plant identification at UBC.

Even before we entered the garden, we were able to see several flowering magnolia trees. These have been flowering for a few weeks already so lost a lot of their tepals. Because of the differences in the microclimates between the outside and inside the garden, the further in, the later the blooms even though they may be the same species. The above photo shows three difference species: magnolia sprengeri, magnolia amoena and magnolia sargentiana.

Magnolia trees flower before their leaves come in. The "petals" are actually called tepals unlike normal flowers which have distinct sepals and petals. They also pollenated by ubiquitous tiny beetles and all the trees can cross-pollinate.

Someone made some art with the magnolia tepals earlier in the morning.

There were so many species of magnolia I couldn't keep track of them all. The magnolias in the garden comes from China or Japan and are very large - a lot of them are over 10m tall! So Douglas doesn't recommend getting some varieties for your residential garden unless you have the space! They need space and sun otherwise they do a very poor job of flowering!

Douglas said that this tree above is the most popular in the garden and everyone photographs it. 

 These blooms were as big as my head!

One problem with magnolias is that if they get damaged, their extensive root system goes into overdrive to repairing itself and grows missing branches at turbospeed - sacrificing flower production on those branches. So you might see bare branches with only a few flowers and you can't prune it because that'll only make it worse!

I think this small one is Star Magnolia? It comes from Japan.

Peer inside the magnolia flower and you'll see the stamens and stigmas, which have a certain beauty to themselves!

If somehow you haven't seen the magnolias yet, go outside and take a walk! You'll probably encounter one growing in someone's garden. Or go to UBC Botanical Garden to see these huge, beautiful trees in bloom!


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