Star Magnolia – Magnolia stellata

Native to Japan, this ornamental is a slow-growing shrub or small tree reaching 2.5 to 5m tall and 3.5 m wide. The star-shaped flowers, 10cm across with 12 to 18 long narrow petals, are initially pure white, but eventually transition to light pink. They bloom from large, furry buds in early spring, before the deciduous leaves emerge. However, it is like the Saucer Magnolia in that its early-blooming flowers are not necessarily conducive to Alabama’s habitat. That is, having evolved in a climate with a more definitive transition between winter and spring, the flowers appear with the onset of warm weather, but are often killed in Alabama’s fluctuating weather patterns and inclement spring frosts.

Also like the Saucer Magnolia, it is deciduous, producing bronze-green leaves in the spring that transition into deep green as the mature, and yellow before dropping in autumn. They produce a reddish-gray, knobby aggregate fruit that matures and opens in early autumn, revealing orange-red seeds. Plants have thick, fleshy roots found close to the surface and do not tolerate much disturbance.