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Featured Plant

Magnolia denudata


Scientific Name: Magnolia denudata

Common Names: Yulan Magnolia

Family: Magnoliaceae

Plant Type: Tree

Environment: Sun or partial shade; prefers deep, rich well drained soil and a location sheltered from wind. Prune after flowering.

Bloom: February

Uses: Tree to 35' (75' in the wild) with extensive root system; needs space to spread and should not be planted close to foundations.

Other: Each flower has nine tepals with the outer and inner tepals the same length. The base of the outside of the tepals can have a red flush, but many specimens have pure white flowers.The Flora of China describes this magnolia as Yulania denudata. The Yulania genus has now been classified as a section in the Magnolia genus by Western botanists. The main differences that can be observed in section Yulania are that they are deciduous and have cylindric, elongated seed pods.



Magnolia denudata

Magnolia denudata is one of the most beloved of all magnolias. Called "Yulan" or "Jade Lily" by the Chinese, the exquisite lily shape of the white blossoms (some with a tinge of pink at the base of the tepals), has the longest history of magnolia cultivation going back to the Tang Dynasty – 618 AD. Its beauty was celebrated on ancient Chinese embroideries, scrolls and porcelains in scenes of the countryside. Its elegant flowers made it "a gift worthy of an emperor." The tepals (petals and sepals that aren't differentiated) are also known as a delicacy, dipped in flour and lightly fried. Today, very old gnarled specimens can be found in Chinese temples and other public places throughout China.

Magnolia denudata was the first magnolia to be introduced from Asia to the western world when it was brought to England in 1780. It is one of the parents of many cultivars, the more famous including Magnolia x soulangeana, a cross between M. denudata and M. liliflora; and Magnolia x veitchii, a cross between M. denudata and M. campbellii.

Many Asiatic magnolias are precocious bloomers (flowers appear before the leaves), creating a very dramatic scene in the late winter early spring. We have six mature specimens scattered around the Garden, each seeming more graceful and elegant in appearance than the other. One not to be missed is the largest M. denudata standing about 30' tall by 40' wide in the Southeast Asian Cloud Forest garden. This is the only specimen in the collection that shows the pink blush at the base of the outside of the tepals, a natural variation found in the wild in China.

Photos by Docent Joanne Taylor; text by Docent Kathy McNeil; profile by Associate Curator David Kruse-Pickler


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