Friday, May 30, 2008

Umbrella Magnolia.....Magnolia tripetala

Tell me again why they call it the Umbrella Magnolia, oh right. This is a wild plant to stand underneath. The leaves are almost 2 feet long, so the "umbrella" is 4 feet across. Magnolia tripetala is Native to rich moist forests on the slopes of the Appalachians from Pennsylvania to Georgia. The literature, universally describes it as "widespread but uncommon." This plant is in Fern Valley inside the Loop Trail in the Cultivar Area. If you come in the main trail, turn right at the shed taking the little spur, then make an immediate left and look to your right. You will circle the plant because you are on a loop trail. It is most easily seen from the far side (3/4 of the way around the loop). There are no flowers this year but the foliage is incredible. The record tree iis ~50' tall and this one is maybe 10-12'.

The horticultural literature also suggests that it is difficult to use in a garden setting because of its bold texture/large leaves. I would not swear to this, but I seem to be able to trace that idea back to Mike Dirr, Manual of Woody Landscape Plants. I certainly don't want to debate the Dean of Woody Plants in North America, (I'm outgunned!), but yes this plant does have character and while it might not either look or perform well sitting in the middle of a grass lawn, that doesn't mean it wouldn't be an incredible addition to many landscapes. Hey, that's what design is about....putting plants in the right places.

The Fern Valley Staff takes it on the road again; Sunday morning we head for the area surrounding Ashville, N.C.. We will be there most of next week, primarily collecting seed of Shortia glacifolia, or Oconee Bells. We will be in North and South Carolina on some wonderful sites. There will be camping involved, so hopefully we will all still be on speaking terms next weekend....just kidding, we're all looking forward to spending time outside in an area so rich in botanical resources. Maybe we will see Magnolia tripetala in the wild; it's like a Brown Pelican in Ocean City, they may not be common, but if they're there, we probably won't miss them.

1 comment:

Rhodies said...

Only draw down on M. tripetala is not texture or size, but rather fowl smelling blooms (unlike what you would anticipate from other evergreen or deciduous magnolias). Just planted out M. Tripetala 'Petite'. Will be fun to see how this shapes up in a few years.