The magnolia flower – which is a genus of the magnoliaceae subfamily, magnolioideae – is considered an ancient genus, some species dating as far back as 20 million years. As an evolutionary throwback, undifferentiated tepals replace the more common petal or sepal arrangements. The actual flower heads can range in size from 3 to 12 inches in diameter, and may be seen in the recognizable creamy white, as well as pink and purple, and the more uncommon shades of red and yellow. Some species of this flower – of which there are at least 210 – give off a lovely, citrusy scent, and all produce red or pink seeds that appear in early fall.
The magnolia flower is often connected with regions of the Southern United States. This is understandable as this plant has inspired a good deal of Southern inspired films – such as Steel Magnolias, events like the Magnolia Blossom festival in Arkansas, and pageantry like the annual Miss Gardendale Magnolia Festival; the magnolia grandiflora is also the state flower of Louisiana and Mississippi. Although these plants are considered ancient, its name and modern cultivation has a more recent history. In 1703 French botanist Charles Plumier named a species of blossoming trees that he found in the isle of Martinique – which was at one point referred to as talauma – Magnolia, after another prominent botanist, Pierre Magnol. Modern magnolias were first established by horticulturists George Forrest and Ernest Wilson of the United Kingdom. George Forrest was sent out to find a variety of new plants, and in 1904 he brought back – amongst others – a few species of Magnolia. Ernest Wilson, on the other hand, collected at least eight brand new species during the early 20th century that are still in heavy use today – some of which include magnolia biondii and magnolia dawsoniana. The magnolia flower may also have some medicinal uses. The bark is known to aid in easing anxiety, as well as helping in reducing allergies and asthmatic issues; however, the flowers themselves are sometimes used in Chinese herbalism to treat respiratory ailments.
As gifts, the magnolia flower is frequently given as small trinkets – flower shaped candles, ceramic pieces and paintings. However, the fresh blossoms make wonderful presents as they are often used to represent a love of nature, sweetness, nobility and perseverance. Most people prefer to give the fresh flower within an arrangement, but these blossoms may also be presented by themselves or in the form of dried or fresh wreaths.