Now is a great time to make it over to the San Francisco Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. The deciduous Campbell’s Magnolia trees, AKA Cup-and-Saucer Magnolia, (Magnolia campbellii) are blooming, and they are a site to see. The branches high above are bursting with the pink and white tepals (see below), with a litter of them carpeting the bare ground beneath your feet. SF Botanical Garden has the largest collection of M. campbellii outside of the Himalayas, which makes it quite an enchanting experience this time of year. Even more impressive, the tree depicted in the image above was the first of its species to bloom in the United States (1940).
M. campbellii is considered a precocious-flowering tree. Take a look at the picture. What’s missing? Leaves! There are no leaves on this tree while it’s flowering, making the blooms all the more impressive. This particular species is one of many deciduous magnolias that flower, go into dormancy, grow leaves, go into dormancy again, and then flower again – a four stage yearly cycle.
Each beautiful flower is made up of 12 tepals that are white on the inside and a rich pink on the outside. These flower parts are called tepals rather than sepals and petals because they are almost completely identical in looks. The lower tepals that act like the sepal in a traditional flower are perpendicular to the flower base whereas the middle tepals are parallel, thus creating the “cup and saucer” look.
These trees only flower form February to March, so enjoy them while you can. If you’re in the Bay Area, they are well worth a trip out to the San Francisco Botanical Gardens (formerly Strybing Arboretum) in Golden Gate Park.
And when you’re done there, you can take a leisurely stroll (or a “colorful” ride in the 71 bus) to the corner of Haight and Masonic Streets to see another type of Magnolia. This Magnolia is of the pub variety and is well known for its many micro-brewed beers – all of which are just as intoxicating as the flowers, but in a different way (my favorite is Proving Ground IPA). Now’s the perfect time to go, since February is Strong Beer Month. Hey, might as well make the most of a trip over to Golden Gate Park and enjoy every type of Magnolia this month has to offer!