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Star Magnolia

March 1, 2021

Tree of the Month

Magnolia stellata

The Star Magnolia is a native of Japan that was first introduced to the US in 1862.  It is planted widely in the U.S. as an ornamental tree, mainly for its early spring flower display.  It is a medium growing tree to 30 feet in height and almost as wide.  It often has multiple trunks branching at the ground of smooth silver-gray bark and gray to chestnut brown twigs.

Their 2” long, green, cone-like fruits, called an aggregate of seeds, mature in the fall splitting open to expose their red seeds.  Many of the seeds fall prior to maturity or are eaten by the birds.  The leaves start out bronze in color, turning a bright green in the summer.  Fully mature leaves are oblong and 4” long and 2” wide and turn an attractive yellow in the fall.  Large swollen, fuzzy gray buds are useful for winter identification.

The tree will bloom starting from a young age and cover itself with star shaped flowers in late March to early April. The attractive flowers are the trees main aesthetic attribute, and will vary depending on the cultivar, with many shades from bright white to pale pinks.

The flowers are 3 to 5 inches across with 12-30 delicate petals and are somewhat fragrant depending on cultivar.  Their showy blooms are an early season show-stopper, and one of the first trees to flower each spring.  Since it blooms in March, it is susceptible to frost damage and may have its entire bloom destroyed by a return of heavy frost.  Pink cultivars can even change their color depending on night-time temperatures prior to and during bloom.  Most years their beauty and scent will captivate you and let you know that spring is just around the corner.

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