22. STAR MAGNOLIA
The Star Magnolia story begins in the throes of winter. In order to get a first jump on Spring, and first crack at the pollinators who will fertilize their flowers, magnolias prepare well in advance. Thousands of flower buds over-winter on the tree, having been produced last summer. They are protected from the bitter cold by an ingenious method of insulation. The "hairy" bud you see above is actually a...
The flower buds of Magnolias are much different than regular deciduous trees. Instead of hard scales, the outer scale on a Magnolia bud is covered with thousands of tiny hairs called trichomes. Not only the outer bud scale, but also an additional one inside the outer scale. The Magnolia grows its bud the summer before and protects it all winter long with its own version of a Puffer Jacket! This double insulation allows them a very early start to Spring.
EARLY SPRING, BUDS & EMERGING FLOWERS
In early Spring, the "jacket" on the flower bud cracks and splits open. The flower emerges in just a few days.
Before any leaves even begin to emerge on the tree, it goies into full bloom. The "star" shape is the early version, the more full petals come later when the leaves appear. This tree takes its name from the star look on the left. The flowers are perfect, meaning there are male and female parts to each flower. Magnolias are pollinated by beetles as they evolved 35 million years before bees.
The Star Magnolia performs multiple tasks each Spring. In this image, you see a flower bud that has not broken, the petals of an open flower, emerging leaves, AND a very small and early version of the fruit of the Star Magnolia in the center.
This small Star Magnolia tree is quite attractive in Summer with lush green foliage, but the tree is also busy making new flower buds for next Spring and also nurturing its bizarre looking fruit which will ripen at the very end of summer or early fall.
Four phases of fruit development of the Star Magnolia. The small fruit emerges in the Spring, grows larger in early summer, matures and ripens in late summer, and then in early Fall the seeds break out of the fruit husk.