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Magnificent Magnolias at San Francisco Botanical Garden

Prized Magnolias

Magnolia doltsopa
Magnolia doltsopa by Travis Lange

An evergreen magnolia, formerly known as Michelia doltsopa, it was discovered near Kathmandu, Nepal around 1803. The highly fragrant white flowers are about six inches across, opening from velvety-brown buds. It is often grown in the Bay Area, sometimes as a street tree, but the specimens in the Garden are some of the largest in cultivation in California.

Magnolia campbellii  'Darjeeling'
Magnolia campbellii 'Darjeeling' by David Kruse-Pickler

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
Magnolia dawsoniana by Patrick Gonzales

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'
Magnolia campbellii by Joanne Taylor

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
Magnolia denudata by Saxon Holt

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'
Magnolia campbellii by Joanne Taylor

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 sprengeri  'Diva'
Magnolia sprengeri 'Diva' by James Gaither

This cultivar has particularly dark, rich, rose pink petals. The Garden's tree is one of the very few mature specimens in cultivation.


Magnolia zenii
Magnolia zenii by David Kruse-Pickler

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
Magnolia amoena by Don Mahoney

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
Magnolia campbellii by David Kruse-Pickler

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 laevifolia
Magnolia laevifolia by Joanne Taylor

This species, native to Yunnan province in China, can grow at altitudes as high as 9,000 feet, far higher than most other magnolias can survive. The flowers are fragrant and used to make perfume.

Magnolia sargentiana
Magnolia laevifolia by Joanne Taylor

Present at the signing of the United Nations Charter, which took place at Cathedral Grove in Muir Woods, Lord Cranborne of Salisbury presented this plant to the Arboretum in 1946. It flowered for the first time in 1953, and sparsely each year until 1960 when it had more than a hundred flowers. Sargent’s magnolia is an IUCN red-listed species whose populations are noted as “vulnerable” in its native Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces, China. M. sargentiana populations have been subject to habitat clearing and the terminally-damaging wild-collection of its bark, which has properties valued in traditional herbal medicine.

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