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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

IN BLOOM

Shidekobushi (Star magnolia)


The forgetting grasses are flowering: But the things of long ago -- How can I forget?

To celebrate a hundred million springs! Magnolias cast off their mittens, And hang their branches with stars. By Linda Inoki

Japan is home to several wonderful species of magnolia. Kobushi, or Northen Japanese magnolias (Magnolia kobus), grow about 12 meters tall, and flower on bare branches. Their simple white flowers are about 10 cm across and have a delicate fragrance. Shidekobushi, or Star magnolias (M. stellata) are similar but more dainty. Typically, they can attain about 4 meters in height, and their flowers -- which may be white or pink -- have 12 or more petals. Both the flower- and leaf-buds shelter from the winter cold inside woolly sheaths, which they throw off in spring. A Star magnolia in full bloom is a delightful sight, and the plants are ideal for growing in a large pot or small garden. There are also some beautiful cultivars to choose from, but unfortunately the wild trees are becoming scarce, mainly due to loss of natural habitat. This is a great shame, because magnolias were among the very earliest flowering plants on Earth. Fossils show that magnolias were growing in temperate forests during the Cretaceous Period, 144 to 65 million years ago.



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