This section is from the book "Handbook Of Hardy Trees, Shrubs, And Herbaceous Plants", by W. Botting Hemsley. Also available from Amazon: Handbook of hardy trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants.
Trees or shrubs with conspicuous fragrant solitary terminal flowers. Sepals 3. Petals 6 to 12,.in two or more series. Car-pels many, in an oblong cone-like spike, 2-seeded, coriaceous, opening along the dorsal or outer edge to allow the scarlet or brown seeds to escape, which hang on slender funicles some time after the dehiscence of the carpels. About fourteen species, from Northern India, Japan and China, and North America. Named in honour of Magnol, a French botanist.
Fig. 21. Magnolia grandiflora. (1/4 nat.. size.)
1. M. grandiflora (fig. 21). - A handsome evergreen tree with large leaves of a rich glossy green above, and clothed with a ferruginous tomentum beneath. The fully expanded flowers are from 6 to 8 inches in diameter, almost pure white, and de-liciously odoriferous. There are many varieties of this desirable tree in cultivation, differing in the form and size of the leaves and flowers and the season of flowering. The Exmouth variety, M. gr. Oxoniensis, is one of the best. Unfortunately it will not bear more than 20 degrees (Fahrenheit) of frost without injury. It is a native of North America, flowering from June to August.
2. M. purpurea, syn. M. discolor. - A small deciduous shrub with large obovate dark green leaves and large tulip-shaped flowers with 6 petals purple on the outside and white within. A native of Japan, which produces its fragrant flowers very freely in the month of April.
There is a reputed variety of this called M, Lennei, of larger stature, having larger flowers with more rounded petals, and said to be hardier; but it does not appear to be much known in this country.
3. M. glauca. Laurel Magnolia. - A.shrub with small evergreen oval or oblong glabrous leaves, light green above and glaucous below. Flowers white, fragrant, from 2 to 3 inches in diameter. Appearing in Summer. This is a very hardy species, though less showy than some others. M. longifolia, Gordoniana, latifolia, etc., are forms of this species. North America.
4. M. conspicua, syn, M. Yulan (fig. 22). - For the size and beauty of its flowers this shrub ranks next to M. grandiflora; but the white flowers, although very abundant, are not so effective, on account of their being produced in early Spring before the appearance of the leaves. There are double-flowered varieties, and one, called Soulangeana, having the petals tinged with purple. A native of China, and rather tender.
5. M. tripetala, syn. M. Umbrella. Umbrella Tree. - A small tree 20 to 30 feet high. Leaves lanceolate, crowded at the ends of the branches, a foot or more long, glabrescent. Flowers very large, white, slightly scented, appearing in May or June. M. Fraseri is an allied species having the leaves auricled at the base. North America.
Fig. 22. Magnolia conspicua. (1/4 nat. size.)
6. M. acuminata. Cucumber Tree. - A large handsome tree with oblong or ovate-acuminate leaves. Flowers oblong, greenish yellow, relatively small. North America. The young fruit resembles somewhat a small cucumber.
7. M. macrophylla. - A tree from 20 to 40 feet high, having large obovate scattered leaves auricled at the narrowed base and silvery pubescent beneath. Flowers large, campanulate, white, with a purple centre. A native of North America.
8. M. Campbellii. - This is a magnificent arboreous species from the mountains of India, having large ovate-lanceolate leaves silky hairy beneath, and splendid crimson and white flowers rivalling those of grandiflora in size, and exceeding them in brilliancy. It is scarcely hardy, and still very rare in this country.