top of page

Featured Plant

Magnolia x soulangeana


Scientific Name: Magnolia x soulageana

Common Names: Tulip Tree, saucer magnolia

Family: Magnoliaceae

Plant Type: Small Tree to 15'-25'

Environment: Sun to partial shade, moist well-drained soil; can tolerate alkaline soils and wind

Bloom: 5-10 inch blooms of white, purple, or pink in early spring

Uses: TDue to its relative small size, a good choice for a small flowering tree in the Bay area. Many cultivars widely available.

Other: SFBG currently grows the cultivars 'Rustica Rubra', 'Alexandrina' 'Burgundy' and 'Picture'



Magnolia x soulangeana

Magnolia x soulangeana is a cultivar, a cross between Magnolia liliflora and Magnolia denudata, and was developed by Etienne Soulange – Bodin, a retired cavalry officer in Napoleon's army, and botanist. The fragrant tulip-shaped flowers (sometimes cup and saucer shaped) vary depending on the cultivar, in colors of deep rose, maroon, or white, and appear before the leaves unfold, a trait of Asiatic magnolias. Its breathtaking flowers appear in mid-winter on bare branches.

Magnolias are primitive plants, blooming in the company of dinosaurs before the ice age. Their petals and sepals, called "tepals", are indistinguishable, and indications of the ancient lineage, as are their stamens and pistils, which are spirally arranged along a central seed-bearing cone. Beetles were among the earliest pollinators in the Mesozoic era. The perfume of the magnolia flower attracted them to seek the protein – rich pollen inside, establishing an ancient and mutually beneficial relationship.

Magnolia soulangeana often grows as a multi-stemmed small tree which is tolerant to wind and temperature, and prospers with rich, well-drained organic soil. Its sturdy silhouette in winter enhances its place in the garden as does its early flowering. The leaves are large, oval and grow alternately on the branches. There are over a hundred hybrids in various colors and length of blooming times.


Photos by Docent Joanne Taylor, Text by Kathy McNeil, Profile by David Kruse-Pickler


bottom of page