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Magnolia tripetala

Magnolia tripetala - elkwood, or umbrella magnolia

This North American magnolia gets one of its names from the way the large leaves form umbrella-shaped bunches at the ends of the shoots. It has become known in Finland as a result of Arboretum Mustila’s seed collecting expeditions. There are now a number of plants in the country which have passed the seedling stage and are young trees. Perhaps the best are those growing against the wall of Helsinki’s Vanha Kirkko (Old Church), despite the fact that they have been wrongly named cucumber trees (M. acuminata).

The umbrella magnolia has probably the largest leaves of any tree that can be grown outdoors in Finland. They can grow to almost one metre, but about half that is perhaps more usual. The tree grows erect, but not very tall. Specimens of over ten metres are known in the wild but they are more commonly multi-stemmed and smaller, which is the form they seem to take in Finland.

The creamy white flowers are hand-sized and appear about the middle of summer at the ends of the branches, where they often go unnoticed among the large leaves. There are conflicting opinions on the pleasantness – or otherwise – of their scent.

 

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