magnolia treeMagnolia is a large genus of about 120 flowering plant species in the subfamily Magnolioideae of the family Magnoliaceae.

Magnolia species are mainly found in eastern North America, Central America and east and southeast Asia, although some are also found in South America.

The genus is named after Pierre Magnol, a botanist from Montpellier in France. The first species belonging to this genus to be identified was M. virginiana (Sweetbay magnolia), found by missionaries sent to North America in the 1680s. The second was another North American plant, M. grandiflora (Southern magnolia), identified early in the 18th century.

Magnolia is an ancient genus. Having evolved before bees appeared, the flowers developed to encourage pollination by beetles. As a result, the carpels of Magnolia flowers are tough to avoid damage. Fossilised specimens of M. acuminata have been found dating to 20 million years ago, and of plants identifiably belonging to the Magnoliaceae back to 95 million years ago. Another primitive aspect of Magnolias are their lack of distinct sepals or petals. The term tepal has been coined to refer to the intermediate element that Magnolia has instead.

The magnolia is the official state flower of both Mississippi and Louisiana. For this reason, it has become a symbol of support for the regions most heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina in the late summer of 2005 (for example, presenters at the 2005 Emmy Awards on September 18, 2005, wore magnolias on their lapels, as did host Ellen DeGeneres, a New Orleans native). Mississippi's state nickname is the "Magnolia State", because of the abundance of magnolias in the state. The magnolia is also the official state tree of Mississippi.

Classification and selected species of Magnolia

Note: the following list only includes temperate species; many other species occur in tropical areas. For a full list, see the Magnolia Society list

* Magnolia subgenus Magnolia: Anthers open by splitting at the front facing the centre of the flower. Deciduous or evergreen. Flowers produced after the leaves.
o Magnolia delavayi - Chinese evergreen magnolia
o Magnolia fraseri - Fraser magnolia
o Magnolia globosa - Globe magnolia
o Magnolia grandiflora - Southern magnolia
o Magnolia guatemalensis - Guatemalan magnolia
o Magnolia macrophylla - Bigleaf magnolia
+ Magnolia macrophylla subsp. ashei - Ashe magnolia
+ Magnolia macrophylla subsp. dealbata - Mexican bigleaf magnolia
o Magnolia nitida
o Magnolia obovata - Japanese bigleaf magnolia
o Magnolia officinalis - Houpu magnolia
o Magnolia sieboldii - Siebold's magnolia
o Magnolia tripetala - Umbrella magnolia
o Magnolia virginiana - Sweetbay magnolia
o Magnolia wilsonii - Wilson's magnolia
* Magnolia subgenus Yulania: Anthers open by splitting at the sides. Deciduous. Flowers mostly produced before leaves (except M. acuminata).
o Magnolia acuminata - Cucumber tree
o Magnolia amoena -
o Magnolia biondii -
o Magnolia campbellii - Campbell's magnolia
o Magnolia cylindrica -
o Magnolia dawsoniana - Dawson's magnolia
o Magnolia denudata - Yulan magnolia
o Magnolia kobus - Kobushi magnolia
o Magnolia liliiflora - Mulan magnolia
o Magnolia salicifolia - Willow-leafed magnolia
o Magnolia sargentiana - Sargent's magnolia
o Magnolia sprengeri - Sprenger's magnolia
o Magnolia stellata - Star magnolia
o Magnolia zenii -


Uses of Magnolia

In general, Magnolia is a genus which has attracted a lot of horticultural interest. Hybridisation has been immensely successful in combining the best aspects of different species to give plants which flower at an earlier age than the species themselves, as well as having more impressive flowers. One of the most popular garden magnolias is a hybrid, M. x soulangeana (Saucer magnolia; hybrid M. liliiflora x M. denudata).

The bark from M. officinalis has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine, where it is known as houpu. In Japan, M. obvata has been used in a similar manner. The aromatic bark contains magnolol and honokiol, two polyphenolic compounds that have demonstrated anti-anxiety and anti-angiogenic properties. Magnolia bark also has been shown to reduce allergic and asthmatic reactions.

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