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By Alison Hawkes, Bay Nature
There’s not a whole lot blooming in mid-January, when native Californian plants shut down for the winter. But if you head over to the San Francisco Botanical Garden, you’re in for a treat.
The magnolia trees begin to blossom, unveiling voluptuous pink and white flowers that blanket the paths in fairyland fashion. Magnolias are not native to Northern California, but it turns out that these immigrants have been persuaded to believe they are in the midst of the Central American cloud forest, or in a sheltered valley in the Himalayas where they call home.
“When these are in full bloom, this pathway is solid pink petals,” said botanical garden curator Don Mahoney on a recent tour of the magnolia collection.
From mid-January until the end of March, more than 100 magnolias of various varieties bloom in the garden, a collection of rare varieties unrivaled outside of China. Magnolias are prolific in the Southeast, where they were once heralded as a kind of mascot of the Confederacy. But that’s just the native U.S. variety, Magnolia grandiflora. In the rest of the world, the ancient flowering trees have become increasingly rare and endangered as development encroaches on the last wild populations, which makes the conservation work at the San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum especially critical.
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