Magnolias are a large group of plants containing 210 different
species. Magnolias range from shrubs through to large trees
occurring mainly in east and southeast Asia and North America. They
are an ancient group of plants with a fossil record dating back
more then 65 million years. This makes them one of the oldest
groups of flowering plants on the planet!
Appearing before bees, wasps and butterflies and magnolias rely
on beetles for pollination. To attract beetles, they don't
produce nectar but huge quantities of pollen which beetles like to
eat. No one type of beetle is more important then another. In
the UK, the tiny black pollen beetles, often found on sweet peas
later in the year, seem to be one of their main pollinators.
Aside from their ornamental uses in gardens, Magnolia have been
used for centuries in medicine especially in China. An
infusion of the bark is used for coughs and colds. The flower
buds are used to treat intestinal problems. Compounds
extracted from the buds are being investigated for their potential
in cancer and allergy medicines.
Magnolias, prefer a sheltered sunny or lightly shaded site. They
are tolerant of most soils as long as extremes of wet and dry are
avoided. Like all trees and shrubs, are best planted when
dormant, from late autumn through to early spring. They
seldom require pruning.
Despite being enjoyed the world over, Magnolias face a
precarious future in the wild. Currently, over half of the world's
magnolia species are in danger of extinction, as their native
forest habitats are destroyed by human activities.