It’s Sunday again and this gorgeous Magnolia tree was taken during the first lockdown.
Magnolia was named by the Swedish botanist Carl Linneaus in 1737 in honour of the French botanist Pierre Magnol (1638-1715). The plant which Magnol had described is that we now know as Magnolia virginiana an evergreen American species which despite its name was already growing in Europe by the mid eighteenth century.
The earliest western record of magnolias in cultivation is found in Aztec history at the time of Montezuma where there are illustrations of what we now know to be the very rare Magnolia dealbata. This plant survives only in a few places in the wild and, although climate change is largely to blame, the natives cut the flowers for festivals and this prevents the plants seeding. It was found by a Spanish explorer called Hernandez who was commissioned by Philip II of Spain and whose work was published in 1651.
Some of the earliest references to magnolias in literature refer to their purported medicinal properties. Anyone who has smelt the peculiar smell of magnolia sap – and what an alluring smell it is – will see how likely this was to appeal to those involved in medicine. The flower buds of Magnolia salicifolia are used in Asia to treat headaches and allergies. A 1985 study reports on the potential use of this drug in the treatment of cancer. Another recent study found that tonics from the bark of Magnolia officinalis lessen tremor in patients with Parkinsons disease.
Magnolias are however one of the most primitive plants in evolutionary history and fossil records show that magnolias once existed in Europe, North America and Asia over 100 million years ago.