The pride of my garden, the jewel of my yard, the magnolia tree in my back yard that is bigger than my house has burst forth in a brilliant explosion of herbavarian sexuality.There is no grander sight than an ancient magnolia in full and unfrost scathed bloom.
And I can truly use the word ancient here, because while my magnolia is simply a few decades old, her ancestors date back to the Triassic period. Before we mammals were a twinkle in Mother Nature’s eye, these trees were serving as a tasty snack for some giant beast that now lives on only as a fuzzy fossil x-ray. My children are forever lamenting the loss of dinosaurs from our world. Little do they know that we have a direct descendent of their version of a Happy Meal in our back yard.
While flowers on my magnolia display are magnificent to behold, they are in fact outdated flowers. You can kind of think of them as the ’57 Chevy’s of the plant world. They don’t have those fancy features like petals and nectar. Instead they have the tepals and a super sweet smell that is designed to attract pollinators as old as themselves (which do not include the bee, butterfly and wasp pollinator trifecta of the modern world). They are pollinated by beetles.
Magnolias have an odd history. Thanks to the devastation of the Ice Age which wiped out magnolias in
Europe, magnolias developed on continents, The Americas and
Asia, that are oceans apart. Asians have revered them for centuries, using them as decoration, food and medicine. Europeans, with their usual lack of cultural awareness, “discoveredâ€ them in the
Americas and brought them back to
Europe where they became an instant hit.
But magnolias are more than just Asian herbal lore, decorÂ and salad. Early studies show that it carries compounds that may fight cancer tumors. Who would have thought that something that evolved long before we did could one day save one of our lives?
Super drug or dinosaur fodder, it does not really matter to me. Really, all I care about is that this year, the frost did not cheat me out of my magnolia display.