A magnolia with an Arboretum pedigree

April 24, 2014


A magnolia with an Arboretum pedigree

Flower of Magnolia x loebneri 'Merrill'

Flower anatomy detail of Magnolia x loebneri ‘Merrill’.

Flowers of Magnolia x loebneri 'Merrill'

Flowers of Magnolia x loebneri ‘Merrill’.

This week many trees in the Arboretum’s extensive collection of magnolias are coming into glorious bloom. Arboretum Director William (Ned) Friedman offers us a look inside the flower of the Merrill magnolia, Magnolia x loebneri ‘Merrill’.

Ned writes: This photo (top) a closeup of the inner reproductive parts of a magnolia flower. The outer whorls of flattened organs are the stamens, which will produce and release pollen. The inner deep pink structures are the tips of the future fruits (stigmas and styles) that will receive pollen and ultimately contain the seeds. This incredible hybrid magnolia growing next to the Hunnewell Building was the outcome of a cross made in 1939 between star magnolia (Magnolia stellata) and Kobushi magnolia (Magnolia kobus). Its botanical name (Magnolia x loebneri ‘Merrill’) honors Elmer Merrill, the third director of the Arnold Arboretum. Interestingly, the cross was made by a student of Harvard botanist Karl Sax, who would later become fourth director of the Arboretum in 1946. I can only hope that my name might someday be attached to a plant as beautiful as this one!

Find this delightful hybrid magnolia on your next visit to the Arboretum!

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