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The Magnolia collection at the Bartlett Arboretum is a recent addition to our grounds and has grown rapidly. While Magnolias can be found throughout the property, the main portion of the collection can be viewed by walking along the entrance drive to the Arboretum (this road is also now referred to as Magnolia Drive). Beginning at Brookdale Road by our entrance a recently planted, yet impressive specimen of Magnolia grandifolia, or Southern Magnolia, can be seen. With a cold tolerance greater than many people realize, M. grandifolia can reach thirty feet or more in our cold Connecticut climate. Walking towards the parking lot one will notice new specimens of Magnolia stellata, M. acuminata, M. "Iolanthe", M. "Donna", M. salicifolia, M. "Elizabeth", M. hypoleuca, and M. sieboldii to name just a few! Most impressive may be our newly acquired specimen of Magnolia macrophylla, also known as Big leaf Magnolia which is native to the southeastern United States. In summer, this tree can have leaves two feet in length!
The natural history of Magnolias is just as interesting as the plants are beautiful. Falling within a group of plants known as the basal angiosperms, the Magnolia family is regarded as having many "primitive" characters including laminar stamens and whorls of tepals as opposed to distinct petals and sepals. The family, botanically known as the Magnoliaceae contains several genera and over 200 species, predominately found in eastern Asia and southeastern North America. In fact, the only definitively native member of the family in Connecticut is Liriodendron tulipifera, the common Tulip tree; many people are shocked when the Bartlett refers to it as a native Magnolia. One other species, M. virginiana makes it to Long Island but its natural occurrence in Connecticut is questionable. Without question, the Magnolias are a fascinating and diverse group of plants worthy of a stop at the Arboretum.
Must see Magnolias at the Bartlett Arboretum:
Elizabeth, M. fraseri, M. pyramidata, and M. sieboldii along Magnolia Drive.
Magnolia figo in the greenhouse, Magnolia splendens preserved collection in the herbarium.