Magnolia is a large genus which has 210 species, and Magnolias are from the family Magnoliaceae. This outstanding genus was named after the French botanist Pierre Magnol (1638-1715). Magnolias are highly prized for their outstanding floral display and within the genus there is great variety. The flowers are generally quite large and come in a whole range of colours; the pure white Magnolia Grandiflora has extremely large cup-shaped flowers that can be up to 25cm across, and in contrast to that the Magnolia Stellata has long and slender pinky white petals. Each variety has its own unique flower and each flower has its own delightfully sweet scent. Some of the earlier flowering varieties like the 'Merrill' blossom before the leaves appear on the bare branches, yet other later flowering varieties like the 'George Henry Kern' blossom alongside the leaves in late spring and early summer. The leaves of magnolia trees are usually large in size with a thick and glossy leaf that sometimes has a golden brown underside. The majority of Magnolia trees are deciduous, but you do get a few evergreen varieties like the 'Grandiflora'.
These trees are of course mainly planted for their ornamental value, but they also have other non-horticultural uses. Traditionally, the bark and the flower buds have been used in Chinese herbal medicine and the leaves are still used in Japanese cookery as a way of wrapping food and even as a cooking dish when layered together.