SFBG named Official Participating Site in the NAPCC Multisite Magnolia Collection
Last week, SFBG reached a milestone that was 75 years in the making. The Magnolia collection was officially recognized as a member of the North American Plant Collections Consortium (NAPCC) Multisite Magnolia Collection. The NAPCC is an arm of the American Public Gardens Association (APGA) responsible for creating collections of plants across North American botanical gardens for conservation and protection. Being a member of the new magnolia group of fourteen botanical gardens with a mission of conservation includes some key responsibilities. First and foremost, we agree to work collaboratively to expand ex situ (growing plants outside their native habitat, like in a botanical garden) conservation of Magnolia species. Some other responsibilities include sharing horticultural information, collecting and sharing seed and cuttings, participating in seed collecting trips to native Magnolia habitats, and meeting bi-yearly with this newly formed group.
As many of you know, our Magnolia collection is an important part of our history and identity and during the peak blooming season one of the most striking and beautiful. In addition, the Magnolia collection is currently listed as the most important for conservation outside of China, which is the hub of Magnolia species evolution. Membership in the NAPCC group is a great step forward for our garden and our collection, representing the efforts of many people dedicated to building an important Magnolia collection beginning with Eric Walther in 1937. That year, it was recorded, he planted the very first Magnolia in the Garden and continued to introduce a total of 17 species and cultivars during his tenure. One of the most famous at SFBG was the first Magnolia campbellii to be planted in the Garden. This plant also has the distinguished honor to be the very first of this species to bloom in the US. The tree still resides in the Garden and puts on its show of large pink flowers every year. The number of magnolias at SFBG has grown to include 51 species and 30 cultivars, many of which are mature and some of the largest specimens found in a botanical garden.
Magnolia Podcast >>
Magnolia is a genus in the family Magnoliaceae. They are most often trees but include some shrubs and are believed to date back 100 million years. One of the most important ways SFBG is conserving Magnolia species is by acquiring and planting species from Central America. Many of these trees also grow in cloud forest habitats, an environment we are able to replicate at SFBG. The three magnolias we have from Central America are the cloud forest magnolia (Magnolia dealbata), Mexican magnolia (Magnolia sharpii), and Guatemalan magnolia (Magnolia guatemalensis), all considered rare and endangered.
The rarest Magnolia SFBG has in cultivation, though, is zen magnolia (Magnolia zenii). This species discovered in 1931 was only known from a few dozen plants. Seeds were brought to the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard and in 1988 we received a plant from this original seed. The flower is about five inches in diameter, white with a flush of purple at the base.
As we move forward, we will be placing emphasis on acquiring more species from Central America as well as South America and Cuba.
The peak magnolia viewing season at the garden is usually mid-February to mid-March, although some of our Magnolia start blooming in late December with the last well into May.
The process to apply to be a participant in the NAPCC Magnolia group started almost two years ago. It culminated in a two day visit by an official reviewer sponsored by the APGA. Mike Bostwick, Curator of Horticulture, from the San Diego Zoo was selected as the reviewer. During Mike's stay with us he interviewed many City and Botanical Garden Society staff and toured the Garden, the Magnolia collection and nursery. His final report was sent along with an official certificate and acceptance letter. I want to share some of the highlights of that report:
"The maturity of the collection will add tremendous stock to the gene pool as well as documented care and maintenance information for other institutions to use for their collections."
When referring to our current GIS (Geographic Information Systems) project:
"This information is valuable as it substantiates the existing information in the records system as well as helps to provide additional information such as planting sites and a good overall picture of the collection as a whole."
When discussing if accession tags are present and complete:
"...accession tags and signage are all done in house and are kept up with on a regular basis. It is probably one of the better gardens I have been to that maintain this aspect of their garden. The maintenance of the field accession tags is very important to maintain and to be able to accommodate research."
When evaluating our ability to take on the responsibilities associated with the magnolia group:
"They have a lot of knowledge and talent and I have every bit of faith that they will be a dominate force in this multi-institutional collection."
There have been a lot of time and resources that have gone into the process of applying for the NAPCC Multisite Magnolia group, but the real effort and work are just beginning. I look forward to sharing more information as we move forward as a working member of this group. Protecting and conserving plants has been our mission for over 70 years at SFBG and now we have the opportunity to do it more collaboratively and as part of a much larger peer group of gardens seriously invested in Magnolia species.
Thanks to everyone who participated in this process for their time and support and thanks to all of you for supporting the Garden we all love.