The season for magnolias is just about over for this year, at least for the spring-flowering sort. This year, they were over all too quickly. Magnolias, however, have seen it all before.
Magnolias are one of the most primitive flowering plants and fossil records show that they once existed in Europe, North America and Asia over 100 million years ago. Today they are indigenous only in Southern China and the Southern United States.
Magnolias developed millions of years before the advent of winged insects, and so they evolved to be pollinated by primitive wingless beetles, hence their robust petals, and a structure more suited to walking pollinators than flying ones. Beetles feed on pollen, rather than nectar. Most magnolias do not have nectar although they do have scent, and produce abundant pollen.
In our climate most spring-flowering magnolias bloom long before many pollinating insects have appeared, so many species seldom, if ever, set seed.
Here is one of the last magnolia flowers of the season. May the next magnolia season be less traumatic than this one.