Of the spring-blooming tree species within our collections, few are as well known or loved as the magnolias. The magnolias represent many individual species with a wide array of ornamental attributes. Some are compact shrub size specimens and others become tall shade trees. Some bloom early in the spring before the leaves emerge, others bloom later into late spring and early summer. They come in a wide array of colors from whites to pinks to deep magenta. Many magnolias are deciduous while a few hold their leaves as evergreens. No wonder this captivating plant has fallen into popularity and into cultivation.
Some of the earliest magnolias to bloom and put on a show at BCA are the saucer magnolias. Interestingly the saucer magnolia is actually a hybrid between two other species of which all can be found at BCA.
Saucer magnolia is a hybrid of Yulan magnolia and lily magnolia (sometimes called Mulan magnolia, both Yulan and Mulan have origins in China). These species were first hybridized in 1820 by French plantsman Étienne Soulange-Bodin (1774–1846), a retired Calvary officer from Napoleon’s army. From France, these trees made their way across Europe, became widely popular in England, and finally made their way into the states.
There are many subtle variations of the saucer in bloom, but they basically combine the floral characteristics of the two parent species.
The commonly cultivated and displayed saucer magnolia (Magnolia x soulangeana), center photo above, is a hybrid of the Yulan magnolia (Magnolia denudate), left photo, and the lily magnolia (Magnolia lilliflora), right photo. The Yulan blooms early and peaked during the week of March 16. The saucer magnolias peaked over the weekend (March 28). We expect the lily magnolia to open fully and peak this week. As you may expect the flower colors of the saucers are a mix of the two parent species.
BCA is a Level II Accredited Arboretum and is listed in the Morton Register of Arboreta. BCA is one of only two accredited arboreta in the city of St. Louis.
We invite you to take a tour of Bellefontaine Cemetery and Arboretum (BCA) and see our beautiful grounds. BCA’s grounds are home to an international variety of meticulously cared-for trees and shrubs, providing a changing landscape every season. Until the mid-twentieth century, Bellefontaine Cemetery was home to a greater variety of trees than the Missouri Botanical Garden. Today, more than 1,100 shrubs and over 5,000 trees represent over 200 distinct varieties.
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