Loebner’s magnolia is a cross between two Japanese species, the star magnolia (M. stellata) and the Kobus magnolia (M. kobus). These two species don’t occur together in the wild, so the first hybrid was therefore a garden one, a cross made by the German Max Löbner shortly before World War I. The first plants were put on sale in 1923, and five of them were purchased by Kordes, already known as a rose-breeder, from Germany’s Sparrieshoop. Later the hybrid has been grown from seed, with numerous varieties selected and named. In recent decades these have been imported and planted here in Finland, where the Kobus magnolia is already known for its hardiness.
Loebner’s magnolia is a deciduous, erect small tree or large shrub, with slim branches. The crown, vase-shaped in the early years, becomes rounded in maturity. The star-shaped, scented flowers are 10-12 cms in diameter, with an average of 12 narrow white petals, though some forms have far more. Flowering occurs in early May, just before leaf-break.
The best known variety is probably ’Leonard Messel’, which probably had the pink-flowered rosea-form of the star magnolia as one of its parents. ‘Leonard Messel’ is probably the hardiest of the pink-flowered magnolias to have been tested in Finland. There are several other varieties and seedlings under test at Mustila, and time will tell how they develop, but the Loebner’s seems clearly more demanding than the Kobus, so far.