Magnolia — Magnolia is a large genus of about 210 flowering plant species in the subfamily Magnolioideae of the family Magnoliaceae.
The natural range of Magnolia species is rather scattered and includes eastern North America, Central America and the West Indies and east and southeast Asia. Some species are found in South America. Today many species of Magnolia and an ever increasing number of hybrids can also be found as ornamentals in large parts of North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. The genus is named after French botanist Pierre Magnol, from Montpellier. See Origin of the name Magnolia.
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 by eating and crawling beetles. Fossilised specimens of M. acuminata have been found dating to 20 million years ago, and of plants identifiably belonging to the Magnoliaceae dating back to 95 million years ago. Another primitive aspect of Magnolias is their lack of distinct sepals or petals. The term tepal has been coined to refer to the intermediate element that Magnolia has instead. Magnolias are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Giant Leopard Moth.
Magnolia grandiflora is the official state flower of both Mississippi and Louisiana. The flower’s abundance in Mississippi is reflected in its state nickname, “Magnolia State”. The magnolia is also the official state tree of Mississippi.
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.