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  • Betty Girardeau

A Beauty At Any Age


How would you like to look this good if you were 95 million years old? Yes, that is not a typo. The genus, which includes our Southern Magnolia, grows all over the world and fossilized specimens have been found that date back that far. Studies indicate that magnolias even appeared before bees, and there is a theory that the flowers evolved to encourage pollination by beetles, not bees. Probably most of us have known one kind or another magnolia all our lives. I grew up in up-state New York where the winters are long and cold. There was a lovely Japanese magnolia in our neighbor's yard. It was usually one of the first trees to flower each spring and we always feared that it was blooming too soon and a late frost would do in the lovely fragile pink flowers, which, indeed often happened. When I went to college in Georgia there were several huge Southern magnolias that dotted the campus. I have had this kind of magnolia in the yard of every house I have owned. I have used the leaves for wreaths and decor at Christmas, and have cut a bloom and brought it into the house to enjoy the lovely fragrance for the few days that the bloom lasts. The tree that I have in my current yard, is right outside my bedroom window, and I love to watch the flower buds develop. The large waxy deep green leaves have a "no nonsense" look to them that is in direct opposition to the large, gentle, fragile flowers. Magnolias are the official flowers of cities, states, and countries and have been featured in music and literature. But perhaps my favorite cultural connection is the 1989 movie "Steel Magnolias," about the bond among a group of women from Louisiana, who can be "as beautiful as magnolias, but are as tough as steel." I wouldn't mind someone thinking of me that way. The image above was captured on one of my evening walks several summers ago.

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