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THE LARGE-FLOWERED MAGNOLIA.
LINNÆUS, Species Plantarum.
DE CANDOLLE, Prodromus.
Michaux, North American Sylva.
TORREY AND GRAY, Flora of North America.
ered Evergreen Magnolia, Bay
tree, Laurel Bay, Big Laure., UNITED STATES. Engravings. Michaux, North American Sylva, pl. 51; Audubon, Birds of America, pl. v.; Loudon, Arboretum Britannicum, vol. v., pl. 1; and the figures below. Specific Characters. Evergreen. Leaves oval-oblong, coriaceous, upper surface shining, under surface
rusty. Flowers erect, 9–12 petals, expanding.- Don, Miller's Dict.
"Seest thou the heavenward head
“Yes. Nor can I view
TRAITS OF THE ABORIGINES.
F all the trees of North
ered Magnolia is the most remarkable for the majesty of its form, the magnificence of its foliage, and the beauty of its flowers. It claims a place among the largest trees of the forest, varying from sixty to one hundred feet or upwards, in height, and from two to three feet in diameter.
Its head often forms a perfect cone, placed on a clean, straight trunk, resembling a beautiful column; and, from its dark-green foliage, silvered over with milk-white flowers, it is seen at a great distance. The roots are branched, and yet but sparingly supplied with fibres. The bark of the trunk is smooth, grayish, and somewhat resembles that of the beech, and is disagreeably bitter when chewed to a pulp. The leaves vary from six to twelve inches in length, and from three to four inches in breadth. They are always smooth and shining on their upper sides, and perfectly entire on the edges. They vary in form according to the variety to which they belong, being sometimes oblong, oval, or acuminate, and
at others, narrow, round, or obtuse. They are usually thick and coriaceous, of a rusty brown on their under sides, and are borne by short petioles. In Florida, Georgia, and Carolina, the flowers first appear in April or May; but in England, France, and the northern parts of the United States, they seldom put forth before June or July; and they continue in some varieties until they are destroyed by frost. The flowers are produced on the summits of the last year's shoots, and are from six to ten inches in diameter. It is remarkable that they are produced throughout the summer, whereas, those of all the other species, with the exception of the Magnolia glauca, when planted in moist situations, come forth comparatively at once, and last only a short time. Their odour is exceedingly sweet, and overpowering to some when near, though agreeable at a distance. They are succeeded by fleshy, oval cones, which are about four inches in length, and contain a great number of cells. At the age of maturity, or about the first of October, in Carolina, they open longitudinally, exhibiting two or three seeds of a vivid red, which soon after quit their cells, and for several days, remain suspended without, by white filaments attached to the bottom of their cells. The red, pulpy substance of the seeds decays, in time, and leaves naked a stone containing a white, milky kernel.
Varieties. In consequence of the great demand for this species, many variations have been produced by cultivators, and have been considered as distinct races, among which the following are deserving of notice :
1. M. G. OBOVATA, Loudon. Obovate-leaved Large-flowered Magnolia. This is said to be the only variety found in the wild state. When cultivated, it deserves the preference of all others for the magnificence of its foliage; but it does not flower freely. It may be known by the broad ends of its leaves, and its expanded flowers.
2. M. G. ROTUNDIFOLIA, Loudon. Round-leaved Large-flowered Magnolia. Not a very distinct or handsome variety, nor a free flowerer. It may be known by its roundish leaves.
3. M. G. EXONIENSIS, Loudon. Exmouth Large-flowered Magnolia. This is the most distinct of all the varieties of the species; and, on account of its flowering early and freely, it is most deserving of general culture. Its form is tall and fastigiate, in consequence of which, it is less liable to be injured by a heavy fall of snow. It is also said to grow faster than any other variety. It may be distinguished by its oblong-elliptical leaves, generally rusty underneath and by its somewhat contracted flowers.
4. M. G. FERRUGINEA, Loudon. Rusty-leaved Large-flowered Magnolia. This differs from the preceding in having rather broader leaves, and larger flowers, and in having a wider and more compact head.
5. M. G. LANCEOLATA, Loudon. Lanceolate-leaved Large-flowered Magnolia. Differs from the last-named variety in not having the leaves rusty underneath, nor of so broad and bushy a head.
6. M. G. ELLIPTICA, Loudon. Elliptic-leaved Large-flowered Magnolia. The flowers of this variety are contracted as in the three preceding varieties, from which it differs only in the oblong-elliptical form of its leaves.
7. M. G. ANGUSTIFOLIA, Loudon. Narrow-leaved Large-flowered Magnolia. A very distinct variety, readily known by its lanceolate, wavy leaves, pointed at both ends.
8. M. G. PRÆCox, Loudon. Early-flowering Large-flowered Magnolia. A variety which deserves a preference on account of the largeness of the flowers, and because they appear early, and continue during the summer. The leaves are oval-oblong, and the flowers fully expanded.
Geography and History. The Magnolia grandiflora is only found indi genous to a tract of country extending from the lower part of North Carolina
in about latitude thirty-five and a half degrees, along the maritime districts of the more southern states and the Floridas, and as far up the Mississippi as Natchez, three hundred miles above New Orleans. It is said to grow in Texas near thc Brasos.
The introduction of the Magnolia grandiflora into France dates back as far as 1732. A fine plant was taken that year from the banks of the Mississippi by a marine officer, and planted in a poor soil in the town of Nantz. It grew there in the open air until 1758, without attracting any particular notice, when it came under the observation of M. Bonami. At the meeting of the states of Breiagne, held at Nantz, in September, 1760, he presented a branch of it in flower, to the Princess of Rohan-Chabet, which became a subject of conversation and interest to all there assembled. At that time the tree was thirty-five or forty feet in height; but, during the civil war of La Vendée, it was mutilated, and lost most of its branches. Afterwards, the burning of a house, near where it stands, having damaged its fine head, it was treated as an orange-tree injured by frost; that is, the branches were cut off close to the trunk. It shot out vigorously, at first, but the young shoots, not having had time to ripen, were destroyed by the frost. Notwithstanding this check, it again recovered, and afterwards became a fine tree, between twenty-five and thirty feet in height, with a large, well-proportioned head, and a trunk four feet in circumference, the lower branches sweeping the ground. It annually produces from three hundred and fifty to four hundred large, elegant, and sweet-scented flowers. The seeds however, never arrive at perfect maturity; although the fruit attains its ful size, and remains upon the tree until the following spring. It may be sufficien to state, that this tree, after having sustained so many injuries, and been a living witness of all the political struggles of France for more than a century, still exists at Maillardière, the estate of M. le Compte de la Bretesche, from whom the foregoing account was received.
The precise date of the introduction of the Magnolia grandiflora into Britain, is uncertain. In the “Hortus Kewensis," on the authority of Catesby, it was cultivated prior to 1737, by Sir John Collinton, at Exeter; and, as far as known, the tree there was the first which was raised or planted in England. It was cut down through mistake, about the year 1794, previous to which it seems to have been rented by different gardeners, who at first sold the layers at five guineas each; but the price gradually fell to half a guinea. It is stated in the "Linnæan Transactions," vol. x., that in 1759, two fine trees about twenty feet in height stood in the American grove, at Goodwood, near the coast of Sussex, that flowered annually; also, that Mr. Collinson had a plant there, raised by himself from seed, which flowered for the first time in 1760, when twenty years old. At White Knights, near Reading, there exists at present, a magnolia wall, which is one hundred and forty-five feet in length and twenty-four feet high, entirely covered with twenty-two plants of this species, that flower every year from June till November. They were planted in the year 1800, when the price in the nurseries, for good plants, was five guineas each.
The Magnolia grandiflora, soon after its introduction into France and England, doubtless found its way into the botanic gardens of Spain and Germany. The first planted trees in Italy were in the botanic garden at Padua. On the authority of the Abbé Belése, who made à tour through northern Italy in 1832, these trees were planted in 1742, and at that time were sixty feet in height, with trunks four feet in diameter. We are also informed that in the botanic garden at Pisa, there are trees which flower and produce perfect seeds, from which plants have been raised by M. Marmier, on his estate at Rois, near Besançon.
It is believed that this tree has been introduced into the botanic gardens of South America and India; and, on the authority of Mr. Reeves, in Loudon's
“Gardeners' Magazine,” vol. xi., it was introduced at Macao by a Mr. Livingston, previously to 1830; and the Magnolia acuminata, glauca, and umbrella, soon afterwards.
Soil and Situation. The Magnolia grandiflora, in its natural habitat, grows in cool and shady places, where the soil, composed of brown mould, is deep. loose, and fertile. These tracts lie contiguous to the great swamps which are found on the borders of the rivers of the south, and in the midst of the pine-barrens. In Europe and the northern parts of the United States, a deep sandy loam, dry at the bottom, and enriched with vegetable mould, seems to suit all the varieties of the species.
The situation, in the colder parts of Europe and America, may be exposed to the direct influence of the mid-day sun; but in southern Europe, and its native climate, it always thrives best when in the shade of other trees, and requires a moister soil. In general, where the fig-tree will grow as a standard, and survive the winter without protection, there the Magnolia grandiflora may be planted, and treated as a standard also. Perhaps the finest situation for displaying the flowers of this tree, as a standard in a northern climate, would be a sloping bank of sandy soil facing the south-east. Here it might be mixed with a few of the deciduous magnolias, and particularly with the Magnolia conspicua soulangeana, which flowers before the leaves come out, and would be set off to great advantage by its green leaves.
Propagation and Management. The Magnolia grandiflora may be raised from the seed; but, as plants so originated do not flower for twenty or thirty years after being planted out, it is preferable to have those which have been propagated by layers from flowering trees of choice varieties. When propagated by layers, the shoots are put down in autumn, and require two years to become sufficiently rooted for separation. They are then potted, and kept in pits, or under glass, where the climate requires it to be protected, or set in the open air, in a shady place, if the climate is too hot, till wanted for final planting. It is not recommended in any case whatever to purchase any species of magnolia for planting not grown in a pot; because plants so grown may be sent to any distance without mjury to the roots, which are few and succulent, and easily damaged by exposure to air and light. In planting, the ball should be carefully broken by the hand, and the roots spread out in every direction, and covered with a mixture of leaf mould and sandy loam. The soil ought to be made firm to the fibrous roots, not by treading, but by abundant watering, and, if the plant be large, by fixing with water; that is, while the earth is being carefully put about the roots by one man, another should pour water over it from a pot held six or eight feet above it, so that the weight of the water may wash the soil into every crevice formed by the roots. Shading will be advisable for some weeks, or even months after planting. If the plant is intended to form a handsome tree as a standard, it should not only have a sufficient depth of suitable soil, but should be pruned to a single stem for at least three or four feet from the ground, to direct the growth of the head. If the plant does not grow freely after it has been three or four years planted, it ought to be bent down to the ground, and kept in that position until it throws up one strong shoot from the collar. The old stem should then be cut away, leaving only the new shoot; and this shoot, which will probably extend three or four feet the first season, will soon form a handsome tree. If the Exmouth variety (M. g. exoniensis) of this species be made choice of, layers will produce flowers in a year or two after being separated from the parent plant, if kept in pots; but, when they are planted out, and grow freely, so as to make shoots two or three feet each season, they will probably not flower for three or four years. In whatever manner this tree be treated, all the pruning it will require, after it has begun to grow freely, will be to cut out the stumps from which the flowers or
strobiles have dropped off, or any dead or decayed wood, and branches which cross and rub on each other. For a few years after being planted as a standard, it may be advisable to protect it during winter, by forming a small cone of thatch or straw round the stem, after the manner of M. Boursault, of Paris, as described in Loudon's “ Arboretum.".
Casualties. In southern Florida, the Epidendrum conopseum grows parasitically upon the Magnolia grandiflora and other trees.
Properties and Uses. The medicinal virtues of this magnificent tree were familiar to the southern Indians, while they were accustomed proudly to point it out as the glory of the forest. The bark of its roots was used by them in Florida, in combination with snake-root, as a substitute for the Peruvian bark, in the treatment of intermittents.
The wood of this tree is but little used in the arts or for fuel. It is soft, and remarkable for its whiteness, which it preserves even after it is seasoned, and when dry, weighs from twenty-seven to thirty pounds to a cubic foot. It is easily wrought, and is not liable to warp; but when exposed to the alternations of moisture and dryness, it soon decays. For this reason the boards are used only in joinery in the interior of buildings In trees from fifteen to eighteen inches in diameter there cannot be discerned any mark of distinction between the sap and heart-wood, except a deep-brown space about half of an inch in diameter near the centre of the trunk. In general, the utility of the Magnolia grandiflora can only be considered in the light of an ornament to plantations and shrubberies, or to the more refined beds of the conservatory.