Magnolia × soulangeana
The most often seen deciduous magnolia on campus. The large saucer-shaped flowers are pink on the outside and white inside and appear before the large oval leaves. Spring color becomes noticeable in January, even before the acacias. Young plants often bloom conspicuously when only 2 or 3 feet high. The tree is a garden hybrid between M. denudata and M. liliiflora, both Oriental trees, and it originated in the garden of M. Soulange-Bodin near Paris around 1820. Many named varieties are now available.
The most accessible examples are a group of three at the foot of the Post Office flagpole and a group of eight where Dueña Street enters Escondido Mall. At the Bookstore, one specimen can be seen on the east side and two on the north. A magnificent specimen is at 821 San Francisco Court. A very large centenarian is at 101 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, opposite Hawthorne Avenue; this patriarch, with branches hanging over 125 Middlefield, has 11 thick trunks, about 2000 flowers, and great scars from decades of pruning.
M. × soulangeana, liliiflora, and stellata share the striking characteristic that flowering occurs in advance of the leaves (or sometimes with the earliest foliage) – often in February. For stellata, sepals and petals are pure white, usually 12 or more and 4 times as long as broad (each up to only about 1.5 cm. wide). Liliiflora and × soulangeana petals are wider. Liliiflora petals are dark purple, with 3 short, narrow sepals. M. × Soulangeana petals are broader still, pink to purple, lighter colored to white outside; its petaloid sepals vary from half as long as the petals to frequently nearly as long (in ours).
Name derivation: Magnolia – Pierre Magnol, 1638–1715, botanist of Montpellier; soulangeana – see text above.
About this Entry: The main text of this entry is from the book Trees of Stanford and Environs, by Ronald Bracewell, published 2005. Magnolia Notes added by John Rawlings some time before 2014.