The huge, white, fragrant flowers always seem slightly surprising on this substantial evergreen tree. The leaves are large, shiny green above and about 8 inches long. When the leaves are young they have an intense matte russet finish below. When the leaves grow larger, the under surfaces approach light green, only downy traces of the original felt remaining. As flowering trees go, the magnolia is of primitive design, still retaining characteristics of the cone arrangement for protection of the seeds, which form within an interesting large 4-inch fruit that opens in due course to reveal the large bright red seeds. This ripening can be watched if the fruit is placed in a cup of water on your desk. The brilliant red seeds, when they emerge from the protection of the cone, remain attached by fine cords and dangle provocatively to the delectation of birds. If sawn through, the fruit can be used as a printing block by children. Mississippi is the Magnolia State, but both Mississippi and Louisiana claim it as their state flower. In the South the tree is often referred to as the bull bay.
Southern magnolias are in front of the Post Office, and one is at Muwekma-tah-ruk, 543 Lasuen Mall (adjacent to Braun Music Center). One said to have been a gift by Lou Henry Hoover is at 570 Alvarado Row, 10 are at the east end of Salvatierra Street, and four are in front of Encina Hall. Four of the best on campus are on Escondido Road at the entrance to Branner Hall. There is a screen of variety ‘St. Mary’ running the length of Sequoia Lane.
Name derivation: Magnolia – Pierre Magnol, 1638–1715, botanist of Montpellier.
About this Entry: The main text of this entry is from the book Trees of Stanford and Environs, by Ronald Bracewell, published 2005.