Michelia doltsopa michelia
An evergreen magnolia relative – many consider all Michelia now to be in genus Magnolia – with large leathery leaves and axillary flowers with a dozen or more 3½-inch long, broad white petals with the feel of light kidskin. The undersides of the glossy green leaves are a fuzzy rust, providing pleasing contrast. The dozens of stamens are arranged spirally on a central core – a reminder that this primitive tree family harks back to the days when conifers were only just beginning to diversify.
Campus’s only specimen is near the southeast corner of Old Chemistry, and is named “Bud’s Tree.” Marked by a stone honoring Emeritus Professor Bud Homsy, it was originally planted in 1996 near the southwest corner of the building.
Variety ‘Silver Cloud’ was planted in 2001 on the north side of Sequoia Hall at Lomita Mall, and the north side of Braun Hall. The latter disappeared soon after. Another example about 7 feet tall was planted in 2013 north of the fountain in front of the Bing Wing of Green Library, replacing the dead Laburnum ‘Vossii’, which replaced the dead maytens. It too was removed a couple of years later.
A splendid 25-foot tree at 560 Lemon Street, Menlo Park, is covered with spectacular blossom by early February, while the pale greenish brown ½- by 2-inch flower buds are waiting in abundance in preparation for a long flowering season. Another attractive specimen is at Palo Alto’s Gamble Garden Center, in front of the Carriage House.
Michelia is an important timber tree in the Himalayas.
Illustrations: Bud’s Tree, just past the height of bloom, 14 Feb 2006.
Name derivation: Michelia – Pietro Micheli (1679–1737), Florentine botanist noted for work on fungi; doltsopa – Tibetan name for plant.
About this Entry: The main text of this entry is from the book Trees of Stanford and Environs, by Ronald Bracewell, published 2005. John Rawlings noted the Sequoia Hall & Green locations. Notes on genus Magnolia, removal of the Green tree (Jan 2018, SP). Bud’s Tree move noted; edits (Nov 2023, SP).