Editor’s Note: This week Emina Darakjy, a very knowledgeable tree enthusiast we are lucky to call a Buzz contributor, introduces us to another stunning climate-appropriate tree. When we started this feature, we had just reported on the latest loss of a mature street tree. We hope these columns will inspire readers to plant new trees. Planting a tree is a simple step we can all take to combat climate change and improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods. This magnificent ornamental tree will reward you for your efforts for years to come. Please feel free to email us at [email protected] if you have any tree questions for Emina!
Magnolia soulangeana – Saucer Magnolia, also known as the Chinese Magnolia or the Japanese Magnolia. It is from the Magnoliaceae family and is native to France and Japan. A small to medium size deciduous tree that can reach a height of 20 to 25 feet tall and as wide.
The tree is a hybrid magnolia that was bred by crossing 2 Asian magnolias by a French botanist by the name of Etienne Soulange-Bodin in 1826 at his Chateaux de Fromont near Paris.
For months before the flowers appear, tree branches are covered with fuzzy buds emerging from velvety leaves apple-green in color, alternate and oval. In late winter to early spring, these buds develop into large, waxy and sweet-scented blooms appearing on bare branches. The blooms are tulip shaped at first, opening to a saucer form after that, exposing the prominent stamens. The flowers range in color from white to shades of light pink and deep purple. When in bloom this tree is so spectacular looking providing a focal point in a park or in one’s garden.
The trunk is smooth and silvery-gray.
The tree does best in full sun, prefers rich and moist soil but is considered drought tolerant once established. The tree is known to tolerate pollution and can survive a colder climate.
The Saucer Magnolia can be grown as a multi trunk with low branching or trained as a single trunk. Because of its small size, this tree is a good candidate for planting under power lines. It is also deer resistant. It attracts many pollinators and provides a good source of food for birds who like to build their nests in its branches.
The tree is very easy to care for and there are no serious known pests or diseases to worry about. Litter from the flowers can be a problem for some.
If you are looking for a magnificent ornamental tree that shouts “Hello Spring” the Saucer Magnolia is the one.
Emina Darakjy is a past president of Pasadena Beautiful and is its present Tree Program Chair. Darakjy says she has always had a passion for trees and that she is involved with several other tree organizations such as California Re-Leaf, the Arbor Day Foundation, and American Forests. She is a past president of Street Tree Seminar Inc. and the present president of the California Urban Forests Council.