Thursday, April 14, 2011

Tree of the Week: Magnolia stellata

(shot in Central Park, 4/15/2011)
Magnolia stellata is commonly known as a star magnolia.

- Considered hardy in USDA Zones 4-8 (maybe as warm as Zone 9)
- Not a terribly fast grower but can grow a foot a year at youth if you're good about watering and plant in generous, protected sun
- Not much in the way of fall color but the sturdy oval leaves add a nice, easy texture to the summer landscape and the fuzzy buds that sit through winter are one of the reasons we love trees in the Magnoliaceae family
- Here in the northeast US these bloom earlier than the saucer magnolias (Magnolia x soulangiana) and the 12-18 petal white flowers have an unbelievable sweet fragrance that will totally stop you dead in your tracks (kind of like me with this guy this morning!)
- There are a lot of cultivars out there, and I admit I don't know a fraction of them, but a personal fave is 'Centennial' which originated up at the Arnold Arboretum in Massachusetts.
- Native to Japan and introduced to the States in 1862 (Thanks Dirr!)

(Magnolia stellata 'Centennial' in the Conservatory Garden, Central Park, 4/15/2011)

oh, and as an aside, a note about another flowering tree of spring. Obviously this is the time of year that everyone wants and loves me to identify everything for them. And I love to, always love a good ID question, but recently I had to catch myself. The question was, "what is that wonderful white flowering tree I see in bloom right now?" Before I went into my usual praise about star magnolias I realized I had to ask a question myself to narrow it down. "Big flowers or little flowers?" I questioned in response. The reason being because if you are talking instead about a tree with small white flowers in clusters all over and a little bit of foliage having started to emerge then you are probably curious about a character called the Callery pear. A member of the rose family like flowering cherries and crabapples, the Callery pear (Pyrus calleryana) is often found as a street tree or viable option for a small urban garden around NYC. But should you be drawn enough to it that you want to have one of your own get to know the better cultivars that are out there and be sure to stay sharp when it comes to smart pruning. If badly raised these trees can be structural nightmares well down the road due to to opposite branching and not enough room for all that included bark. ...but that is a post for another time. Get out there, it's a beautiful day!

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