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Sonntag, 17. April 2011

Magnolia - The Ancient Beauty

The Ancient Beauty


Each day on my way to work
I pass a Magnolia tree
In springtime I marvel
at its fleeting beauty, saddened
when wind whips
the blossoms away; but knowing
they will be back
next year.

Dedicated to my wife Dang, who shares the admiration for Magnolias with me.

Copyright: Hermann U. Loewel 2007

May I introduce myself?

Maybe you don’t know me yet; perhaps you met one of my brothers and sisters somewhere already and wondered.

My name is Magnolia.

Among us and within my huge family it is not customary to give names to anybody. We are what we are and our only duty is to exist, play our little role in our own special way and contribute beauty to the eyes of all living creatures.

My family exists so many years already that I lost count. We watched the formation of mountains; kept an eye on continents drifting apart or joining each other. We saw the dinosaurs roaming earth; we noticed the first mammals sneaking around tasting our fruits. Fascinated we observed the arrival and evolution of mankind. We survived many ice ages and other dangerous climate changes.

We are strong. But yet, for a few days each year we are vulnerable, wear our most beautiful robe while we produce our offspring and celebrate our survival over the eons.

Like many other plants with blossoms we rely on insects to spawn.

My family tree reaches far back in the history of earth. Scientists say as much as 90 million years. At that time nature did not invent bees yet, but beetles were roaming and buzzing around already. Therefore we had to develop strong carpels and stamens to withstand the careless crawling of beetles compared to the soft tickling of bees. I know that the beetles don’t mean it and we really appreciate their help.  

Where my name comes from

Let me tell you, how I came about my name. It all began with Mr. Charles Plumier, a devout religious French man. He studied mathematics and physics when he was young. Later he developed an appreciation for nature and became a botanist. In the year 1703 he visited the Caribbean Island of Martinique and fell in love with me. At that time none of my kind lived in Europe.

Source: Wikimedia common 

We knew already before that human kind likes to categorize things, plants and animals by giving them first, second, third and so on names. Obviously we stimulated no attention in the minds of the scientists before. Don’t ask me why. But that year in 1703 it was our turn.

I have to admit that this kind of view is one of the Western World. In reality I had many names at that time already. The natives of Martinique called me Talauma long before.

The Chinese belong to my greatest admirers since thousand of years and call me xin yi hua. Besides my beauty they appreciate the herbal effect of my bark, which can smooth malaria and pains in the intestines and stomach. My blossoms help to clear up the lungs. For this purpose people make tea or pills out of my bark or blossoms. 

Mr. Plumier was a humble man. He named us after the then more famous French botanist Mr. Pierre Magnol. And so we are known since that day.

 Source: Wikimedia common

There are magnolia liliiflora pinkie, magnolia soulangeana and many many more unspeakable relatives of my kind.

Without Mr. Charles Plumier and his successors I wouldn’t know how rich and diversified my family is. The State of Mississippi carries my name. It is called the Magnolia State, because we have chosen this region as one of our favorite places. I hope you forgive me, if I say that I am a little bit proud of all of this.

My kind is spread all over the world. All the Americas, Europe, Indies, South East Asia, China, Japan and elsewhere.

Around 1750 my relatives traveled to Europe the first time. Caring people received them. Afraid that they catch a cold they were given shelter in warm and humid greenhouses. But my forebears didn’t go to Europe to just sit inside a comfortable home.  My great-great-great Grandpa used to tell the story that the disappointment was so big that they didn’t grow blossoms. Only after some Magnolias were moved outside and felt the real weather in Europe and its seasons on their skin, they started to blossom.

Now everybody knows that we are strong, flexible and adaptive. We need the open space. We need to feel rain, hail, snow, wind and the sun to prosper. We are children of the whole planet.   

I am living in Switzerland, where cold and freezing winter times change gradually into hot and sunny summer times and vice versa with spring and fall in between.

Let me tell you the story of one year in my life.

One Year in my Life

I am not alone in Switzerland. Many relatives have found their homes in gardens and parks. Therefore I am allowed to speak for most of us. We all share a similar life. But as all living creatures each of us has its own special way. None of us looks exactly like the other.

Towards the end of the year as early as November, bare of any green leaves, we prepare ourselves for the major event in the month of April.


A kind of fur protects and keeps us warm, because it’s wintertime with low temperatures and with snow and frost sometimes. We stay like this for three to four months.

We don’t need to kill any animals for coating us with fur. We tailor our own comfortable suit. It’s in our genes.  
In March when the days get longer and the sunrays beam with a warmer touch we open our coat.


There is no way back. Our cloths are now too small to cover our growing blossoms entirely. Very often wintertime comes back in March for a few days and we have no choice but to survive snow and ice without protection.

       Even the Magnolia
By Mendi Obadike
Even the magnolia, trapped
in the jaws of frost, catches
snowflakes on his tongue.
Whether numbed or bitten,
he knows the sting of winter
unlocks a green door. Even
the magnolia, like a once-lost
foreigner, trusts the seasons
of his second home, fears
daybreak in his first.

From then on life gets easier. If we are lucky, April brings some sunny and warm days, so we can unfold our blossoms in comfort and glory.

Please excuse some brown spots on our petals. If the snow in March covers us too long and the nights get freezing cold and icy, our sensitive skin suffers.

But don’t worry, we are tough and survived many climate changes over the many million of years. These brown spots don’t harm us really.

The only thing we don’t like is cutting back our wooden branches. This hurts. These kinds of wounds don’t heal easily and even spread to the healthy and untouched branches. One wrong cut and we sometimes suffer as a whole. Other trees don’t seem to care much about being “pruned” like the professional gardeners say. Our friends the good and caring gardeners know this and instruct their unaware colleagues accordingly.

Our brilliance lasts only for a few days. Soon we start to lose our petals and carpet the ground beneath with them.

At the same time we start to grow green leaves. Maybe you recognized that there were none of them so far.


We need the green leaves to store new food in our branches. The countless blossoms used up almost all of our reserves.

Now the beetles can do their appreciated favor of pollination and we disrobe our gala dress. It’s time to take care of our offspring, the seeds.

While our green leaves are growing larger and larger and provide our branches with food, our fruits develop.

Finally in May it’s all over. The overwhelming sight of us in our beautiful mating dress has an end. From then on we look like any other tree with our green leaves. It’s the time when we feast. The sun rays transform the chlorophyll in our leaves into sugar (glucose) and starch. We turn it into energy like any other living creature; energy we all need to survive.  

My fruits look are a favorite of squirrels. They like them as a tasty lunch or hide them in the ground for later. We don’t mind too much. There’s plenty of seeds and enough for everybody. 

Sometimes it’s really amusing. Squirrels don’t have a good memory obviously. They hide so many things in the ground that they don’t remember all the places when wintertime comes and they need to feed on their secretly hidden food stores. So it comes that some of these stores in the ground remain untouched.

And guess what happens. Right. Eventually a new Magnolia will be born, thrust through the surface and will have a chance to develop into a magnificent flourishing tree like we all are for a few days of the year.

Just thinking about it makes me happy and proud. It gives reason and meaning to all of our efforts over the year. It’s like this since 90 million years and we never get tired of it. We just take every year as if it were the only one in our life and if I may humbly suggest, you should do so too.

See you again next year. God bless you.                

Sweet Magnolia Tree

Beneath the sweet magnolia tree
She sits and dreams of days gone by
Memories of the one she loves
Float gently through her mind.

She closes her eyes, she pictures him
So young, brave and strong
She sees his love shining through
Oh how for those days she does long.

How handsome he was, so proud
When in uniform she saw her man
As he prepared to go of to battle
To defend this, his beloved land.

Don’t weep for my darling
He whispered as he left that fateful day
I’ll be home before you know
Then never again from you will I stray.

Beneath the sweet magnolia tree
Each day she sits and waits
Watching still for the one she loves
Not believing what they said of his fate.

Now old and grey and weary
She knows soon she will see him again
As angels lead her to her only love
Only then will she be free from pain.

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