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A much-branched deciduous shrub of rounded, compact habit, 10 to 15 ft high, usually half as much more in diameter; young bark very aromatic, at first silky-hairy; winter-buds shaggy. Leaves 21⁄2 to 4 in. long, narrow oblong or obovate, tapering at the base to a short stalk. Flowers fragrant, pure white at first changing to pink; produced on the naked shoots in March and April. Tepals twelve to eighteen, more numerous than in any other magnolia; 11⁄2 to 2 in. long, narrowly oblong or strap-shaped, at first spreading, then reflexed. Most flowers also bear one to three small, inconspicuous and fugitive sepaloid segments.
Native of Japan, found wild only in the mountains north-east of Nagoya; introduced to Britain about 1877. For small gardens this is the most desirable of all magnolias. Its only defect is that its delicate petals are very susceptible to injury by frost, or even excessive wind and rain. But it flowers most profusely, and the first crop of blossoms if destroyed is succeeded by others. It sets its flowers unfailingly, and flowers even when less than 1 foot high. An attractive picture is made by planting this shrub in a group and growing beneath it, thickly, the grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum). The two flower together. This magnolia is much benefited by an admixture of peat in the soil, even to the extent of one-third.
There can be no doubt that M. stellata is closely allied to M. kobus, of which it is considered by Blackburn to be a variety (Baileya, Vol. 5 (1957), pp. 9-11; Amatores Herbarii, Vol. 17 (1955), p. 1).
† cv. ‘Norman Gould’. – A colchicine-induced polyploid of M. stellata, raised in the R.H.S. Garden at Wisley. It received a First Class Certificate in 1967.
† cv. ‘Royal Star’. – This makes a larger bush than the usual M. stellata and starts flowering about a week later, the display lasting about two weeks and sometimes extending into May. Raised in the USA.
cv. ‘Water Lily’. – The name should be spelt as one word – ‘Waterlily’. For confusion over the use of this name see Neil Treseder, Magnolias, pp. 114-16. He points out that it has been applied to four different clones of M. stellata. However, it would be reasonable to restrict the name to the clone raised and distributed by the Greenbrier Nurseries around 1939 and described by Dr Wyman in Arnoldia, Vol. 20, pp. 3-4 (1960). This is more erect than the usual M. stellata and the flowers have a flush of pink on the outside of the tepals, of which there are fourteen to eighteen in each flower. This seems to be the clone most widely distributed in the USA (and by Dutch nurseries). But the clone distributed by Messrs Hillier is different. It is doubtful whether the other two have reached British nurseries.
For the hybrids between M. stellata and M. quinquepeta see the latter, in this supplement.