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Seed dispersal in a magnolia: before and after

by William (Ned) Friedman, Director of the Arnold Arboretum
September 5, 2015


Seed dispersal in a magnolia: before and after

MagnoliaSeedDispersal_DirectorsBlog4Late summer is a time of ephemeral events in the Arnold Arboretum, matched only by the intensity and rapidity of spring flowering. Pines, larches, magnolias, spindle trees (Euonymus), and many others are literally disgorging their seeds for dispersal by the wind, birds, and other animals. How quickly do things change?

Take a look at the two images I took yesterday of Magnolia virginiana x virginiana ‘Milton’ (779-87*C), located just a hundred feet from the Hunnewell building. The first fruit, with its beautiful yellow and pink surface has just begun to split open its seed-containing chambers (carpels) to reveal singlets and pairs of bright red seeds. The second fruit, from the very same tree is finished. Each seed-containing chamber has opened and a few lucky birds have had a feast. The empty dry brown fruits (textured and magnificent in and of themselves) will persist through the winter, but the phenomenon of revealing the red seeds on this tree will likely be over in a few days.

Learn more about seed dispersal by birds and animals in the Arnold Arboretum in this Arnoldia article.

-Ned Friedman, Director of the Arnold Arboretum


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