Magnoliaceae (Magnolia family) Magnolia

Magnolia stellata star magnolia

Magnolia stellata behind the Bookstore (now removed). Sairus Patel, 2 Mar 2022
Magnolia stellata, Lomita Mall (now removed). John Rawlings, 18 Feb 2005

A deciduous shrub usually about 10 feet tall whose open flower, about 3 inches across, has a dozen or more strap-like tepals, usually white but sometimes pink. Lily and star magnolias may not be numerous but they hold their place in February and March with the other harbingers of spring.

Only newer small specimens remain on central campus: A small pair of ‘Royal Star’ is in one of the rectangular beds between Green Library and Crothers Hall; another of the same cultivar grows on the northern corner of the lawn north of The Claw fountain in front of the Bookstore. A small one blooms near the door on the south-east corner of the courtyard between Encina Hall and Encina Commons; saucer magnolias and southern magnolias are nearby. A half dozen or so deciduous magnolias, some of them M. stellata, are on the north side of Sequoia Hall. Two magnificent specimens of star magnolia flank the front path at 680 Lowell Avenue in Palo Alto, soaring more than 25 feet.

Magnolia notes

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 inside; 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.

About this Entry: The main text of this entry is from the book Trees of Stanford and Environs, by Ronald Bracewell, published 2005. Tepal edits, Mem Chu & Encina locations added, Amy Blue and Law School locations indicated as removed by Sairus Patel, Feb 2020. Magnolia Notes added by John Rawlings some time before 2014. Bookstore location added, locations clarified; all locations up to date (Mar 2022, SP). Lowell location added; removed mention of removed specimens in the old Serra Complex and the Law School Courtyard, and of the declining specimen next to Memorial Church’s Round Room (Mar 2023, SP). Location behind the Bookstore removed; Claw location added; ‘Royal Star’ cultivar specified (Feb 2024, SP).