Monday, 20 April 2015

A Year in Pictures – 20 April 2015 – Magnolia

It has been a difficult day: if I just record here the name Microsoft Word, no doubt we can leave it at that. To counteract some of the churning emotions of the daylight hours I wandered out into the churchyard at St Olave's with my camera and took some shots of the magnolia trees—now in spring bloom—that stand atop the old plague pit (I kid you not) in the centre of this historic ground. The dear things did not disappoint.

The genus Magnolia is named after the great French botanist, Pierre Magnol, whose dates (1638-1715) make him pretty exactly contemporary with the most famous of St Olave's parishioners, Samuel Pepys. In addition to lending his name to a large and popular genus of beautiful trees, Magnol was the author of the snappily titled Prodromus historiae generalis plantarum, in quo familiae plantarum per tabulas disponuntur. (Montpellier 1689) ["Precursor to a general history of plants, in which the families of plants are arranged in tables"], and perhaps his greatest and most enduring contribution to plant science is in the concept of plant families: the working out of relations between plants based on shared combinations of morphological characteristics. There you have it.

As far as I can tell, this is an example of Magnolia liliifera, otherwise known as Japanese magnolia since, although native to China, it was first introduced to English-speaking countries from cultivated Japanese origins.
The blooms are now going off and the large, luxurious petals strew the lawn beneath the trees, their pure white concave inner surfaces making them resemble—as the Corporation of London's plant expert described them to me a few days ago—porcelain cups. He did not add the word 'exquisite', but it would not have been out of place if he had.

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