Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Saucer Magnolia cones

I have grown up around the so-called "southern" Magnolia trees (Magnolia grandiflora) and I am very familiar with the cones which form after the flowers have died.  And I am familiar with the big red seeds that fall from the cones.  In fact, I have picked up a lot of these cones in my backyard, so I wouldn't run over them with the lawn mower.

Magnolia grandiflora seed cone
It took some convincing before I came around to the idea that the "Tulip Trees" I saw in Portland, Oregon several years ago were another variety from the Magnolia genus (Magnolia x soulangeana).  These trees are also called "Saucer Magnolias."  I have had a small Saucer Magnolia in my front yard now for about 7 years, but the resemblance to the more familiar Magnolia grandiflora is still abtruse.  Until last week, that is...

I was driving home and passed a large Saucer Magnolia on a neighboring street.  Our Saucer Magnolias bloom in the spring and early summer before the leaves come out.  As the blooms are wilting the leaves come out and the trees are covered in bright green leaves the rest of the growing season.  Occasionally our tree has produced another couple of blooms in the late summer or early fall, when the temperature is just right and there has been plenty of rain.  But what I was seeing on our neighbor's tree were not more blooms.  It was definitely something else - something I had never seen before.

Magnolia x soulangeana cone
The tree was covered in pink growths that looked a bit like fruit.  Since I was driving at the time, I decided to come back on foot and look more closely.

Magnolia x soulangeana seeds
What I saw was very different from the cones that form on our Southern Magnolia, but also very similar.  The bright pink color and smooth texture are very different from the fuzzy brown cones that form on our Southern Magnolia.  However, the red seeds that were emerging from some of these pink cones was very distinguishable and identical to our Southern Magnolia.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! What a coincidence!
    Just yesterday we stopped at a Mississippi Visitor Center and there was a large plant (which for some reason looked different than our saucer magnolia) and it had the big red strange "things" on it also. I wanted to snatch one, but there was a security guard out front. :-) I almost went back for my camera, but didn't. I am so glad to now know what it was---just such a coincidence that we both saw these for the first time this fall.