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Magnolias

In a cool and misty corner of San Francisco, the New Year begins with one of the city's most breathtaking annual natural marvels. San Francisco Botanical Garden is home to the most significant magnolia collection for conservation purposes outside China*, where the majority of species grow. Long considered the signature flower of the Garden, nearly 100 magnolias, many rare and historic, erupt in a fragrant riot of pink and white from mid-January through March. Paleobotanists consider the magnolia family to be among the earliest flowering plants, with magnolia fossils dating back nearly 100 million years. Ice age survivors, they bloom for us now.

Visit the Garden and take advantage of a whole host of special programs including a free Magnolia Walk map, docent and curator-led daytime and moonlight tours, family activities, library resources, Garden Bookstore discounts, and even a chance to learn Magnolia Mixology!

Walks Walks


Magnolia Highlights Walk
Pick up a special FREE Magnolia Highlights map at the ticket kiosks (or download one in advance here) to help you tour and identify the most significant and spectacular Magnolias in our collection. The map corresponds to pink identification signs throughout the Garden.

Free Magnolia Docent Tours
Every Saturday, January 12–March 16.

Magnolias by Moonlight January 25; February 25; March 25
Take a docent-led tour of the Garden by the light of the full moon and experience the heady fragrance of magnolias in the evening air.

Magnificent Magnolias Tour February 16
Enjoy a special guided tour of the Magnolia Collection with San Francisco Botanical Garden Curator Dr. Don Mahoney.

Magnificent Magnolias Tour March 3; March 10
Enjoy a special guided tour of the Magnolia Collection with magnolia expert and San Francisco Botanical Garden Docent Dr. Joe Barbaccia.

Classes Classes


Magnolia Mixology January 31
Join Master Mixologist H. Joseph Ehrmann, owner of the renowned bar Elixir, for this hands-on magnolia-inspired cocktail class. Learn to blend magnolias, fresh herbs and spices from the Garden with premium organic spirits to create two tantalizing concoctions.

Magnolias, Camellias and Rhododendrons: Pencil DrawingFebruary 21
See why colored pencils are ideal for capturing the fragile glories and unique colors of these winter blooms. Practice mixing and layering color and explore burnishing, layering and impressed line techniques.

Family ActivitiesFamily Activities


Garden Interpretation Stations Sundays, January 13– March 17
Visitors of all ages can stop by to ask questions and explore magnolias in more depth.

Children's Story Time in the LibraryJanuary 6, 20; February 3, 17; March 3, 17
Enjoy a different, themed, special story each month, then take a guided walk connecting the story to living plants. For kids ages 4-8. FREE; non-resident admission fee required for docent walks following readings.

Magnolia Mobile Making for Families January 20
Make a Magnolia Mobile using natural materials, including magnolia petals and leaves. For kids ages 3-12. FREE with admission.

Family Lunar New Year CelebrationFebruary 16 & 17
Celebrate the Year of the Snake and the Garden's many magnolias from China. Saturday, see lion dancers and lively folk dances by the SF Sunset Recreation Center Dance Troupe, pot a plant to take home, and make plant lanterns. Sunday, enjoy tai chi performances and participatory demonstrations, including dazzling sword forms and a procession of dragon dancers. Special Lunar New Year Story Times, too! FREE.

Secret Garden Magnolia Scavenger HuntMarch 9
Follow the clues to discover "Secret Gardens" and assemble materials for a secret art project. For kids ages 5-12. FREE with admission.

Prized MagnoliasPrized Magnolias


Magnolia campbellii 'Darjeeling'
Thought by many to be the most spectacular of all the magnolias that bloom at the Garden, this Himalayan selection was propagated from a tree at the Lloyd Botanic Garden in Darjeeling, India, and offers magnificent deep pink flowers emerging on leafless branches.

Magnolia dawsoniana
This endangered magnolia from China, named after the first superintendent of Harvard University's Arnold Arboretum, has large pink flowers, up to 10 inches, that droop and resemble flags blowing in the wind.

Magnolia campbellii 'Strybing White'
The largest magnolia at the Garden, towering over 80 feet, this special white form of the species was grown from seed purchased in India in 1934, propagated at the Golden Gate Park Nursery, and planted here in 1939.

Magnolia denudata
The first magnolia from the East introduced to the western world when brought to England in 1780, it is called "Jade Lily" by the Chinese, due to the pure white, lily-shaped blossoms. It has the longest history of cultivation, dating back to the Tang Dynasty – 618 AD.

Magnolia campbellii 'Late Pink'
Introduced at the Garden from seed purchased in 1934 from G. Ghose and Co. in Darjeeling, India, the flowers of this magnolia appear 2-4 weeks later than other Magnolia campbellii, extending the Garden's magnolia viewing season.

Magnolia zenii
The rarest magnolia in the Garden, and listed as critically endangered, only a few dozen of these plants were found when they were discovered in China in 1931.

Magnolia amoena
One of the last magnolias discovered in the wild, this charming magnolia was found on China's Mt. Hwang in 1933. This particular tree was a gift from the Shanghai Botanical Garden, presented to the Garden by then-Mayor Diane Feinstein in 1982.

Magnolia campbellii
Our cup and saucer magnolia in the Camellia Garden (Bed 58A) was the first of this species to bloom in the U.S. when the Garden officially opened in 1940, attracting huge crowds of visitors who stood in line to see the large pink flowers of this lovely tree.

Magnolia x soulangeana
A deciduous hybrid between Magnolia liliflora and Magnolia denudata. Many hybrid cultivars are available today featuring an array of colors from white to deep purple.

Magnolia laevifolia
Formerly Michelia yunnanensis, Magnolia laevifolia grows as a shrub or small tree with small creamy white flowers and golden tomentose (hairy) buds.

Special EventsAbout the Collection


San Francisco Botanical Garden's magnolia collection includes 51 species and 33 cultivars, including many prized examples from Asia. This unique and long-standing collection began in 1939 with Eric Walther, who planted the very first magnolia in the Garden and continued to introduce species and cultivars throughout his tenure as the first Garden Director. One of the most famous species he planted was the cup and saucer magnolia or Magnolia campbellii, the first of its kind to bloom in the United States in 1940, attracting huge crowds of excited and curious visitors who stood in long lines to see the magnificent large pink blossoms of this lovely magnolia that still stands in the Garden today. More than a dozen other M. campbellii can now also be found throughout the Garden.

*Botanical Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), June 2008, Global Survey of Ex situ Magnoliaceae Collections

Magnolia campbellii. Photo by James Gaither

Magnolia campbellii. Photo by James Gaither

Magnolia stellata 'Rubra'

Magnolia stellata 'Rosea'. Photo by David Kruse-Pickler

Visitor Photos

Check out some of our favorite visitor photos.



Magnolia blooms in the fog

Magnolia flowers in the fog. Photo by David Kruse-Pickler.

Discounts and Resources

Discounts & Resources


Members Benefit
Become a San Francisco Botanical Garden Society Member and reap the benefits! Get discounts on magnolia tours and classes (see individual listings) and an additional 10% off magnolia items at the Garden Bookstore during the celebration.

At the Garden Bookstore
Enjoy special discounts on magnolia items at the Garden Bookstore.

A Guide to Sources on Magnolias
Find over 240 magnolia-related books, articles, images and more in this comprehensive magnolia bibliography from the Helen Crocker Russell Library of Horticulture.

North American Plant Collections Consortium (NAPCC) Magnolia group
San Francisco Botanical Garden is an active participant in the North American Plant Collections Consortium (NAPCC) Magnolia group. Part of American Public Gardens Association, this network of botanical gardens and arboreta work to coordinate a continent-wide approach to plant germplasm preservation, and to promote high standards of plant collections management.

Magnolias podcast
San Francisco Botanical Garden docent Maggie McDowell shares her knowledge of these beautiful and ancient plants.

Magnolia campbellii 'Strybing White'

Magnolia campbellii 'Strybing White', This special white form of the species was grown from seed purchased in India in 1934, propagated at the Golden Gate Park Nursery, and planted here in 1939. Photo by Joanne Taylor.

Magnolia sprengeri

Magnolia sprengeri var. diva, rare in cultivation with beautiful pink-streaked tepals. Photo by David Kruse-Pickler.

Magnolia campbellii

Magnolia campbellii, this specific tree is in the Camellia Garden and was the first M. campbellii to bloom in the US (1940). Photo by David Kruse-Pickler.

Magnolia denudata

Magnolia denudata, known as the oldest cultivated magnolia from China. The tepals are considered a delicacy in China, lightly breaded and fried. Photo by David Kruse-Pickler.

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ADMISSION  FREE for all SF City & County Residents, Members & School Groups     /     $7 Non-residents     /     Discounted fee: Seniors, Students & Children

LOCATION Entrances at the corner of 9th Ave at Lincoln Way & at MLK Jr. Blvd. off the Music Concourse in Golden Gate Park

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