Field of Science

A Magnolia experiment

While in western Florida, my dear Sister suggested we visit a native plants nursery in Talahassee, not so she could enhance the diversity of her wildlife preserve, but to amuse TPP. They had some very nice plants, lots of natives, and that included Magnolia ashei, the Ashe Magnolia, sometimes considered to be a M. macrophylla var. ashei, a variety of big-leafed magnolia that is only found in western Florida, primarily along the Apalachicola River (map here). Some very nice seedlings were available for only $10! TPP could not resist; he has a thing for magnolias dontcha know. Now TPP knows what you are thinking. What kind of wild-eyed optimist would think this magnolia would survive in the upper midwest?  There is a funny thing about narrow endemics like this shrub; they generally can grow in a much wider area than where they are found in nature. In other words, it's not some general physical requirement or local adaptation that has limited their distribution. Other big-leafed magnolias grow here including your basic M. macrophylla. In one garden not too distant from here grows a southern magnolia in a protected area, and a visiting botanist says an Ashe magnolia is growing in a garden about an hours drive west from here. So for $10, TPP will give it a try in a protected location. It shouldn't get very big in any case; locally bay magnolias grow as large shrubs mostly whereas they grow into trees in the Carolinas and the Ashe magnolia is an understory shrub. So who among you wouldn't do the same thing? Isn't that a great flower?  And of course the big leaves just look so exotic, so tropical in a way. TPP already has a M. tripetala, another big-leafed species.  No one really knows how cold hardy this species is.  Some sources suggest zone 6, and 3 other magnolias in TPP's collection are of similar hardiness ratings and doing fine including after last year's rock bottom zone 5 winter temps. Lastly, these are seed grown from other cultivated trees, not seedlings or seeds collected in the wild. Only wish the native star anise was tougher. 


Anonymous said...

Do you know how jealous this Zone 3 gardener/plant maniac is? Curse you, Labrador Current, curses!

The Phytophactor said...

TPP has something for everyone. See if you can find yourself a Microbiota decussata, Siberian cypress. It's a very nice looking, low-growing, shade tolerant evergreen gymnosperm hardy to zone 2.