Hidden Treasures of the Arboretum: The Houpu Magnolia
Washington Park Arboretum is home to the third largest collection of magnolias in the country. Among the many showy-flowered species, cultivars, and hybrid magnolias growing here, one is notable for the uniqueness of its foliage: Magnolia officinalis var. biloba, a variety of the Houpu or spice magnolia.
The Houpu magnolia is a deciduous tree from China. Its large leaves—up to 20 inches long by some accounts—have a bicolor appearance: pale green on the upper surface and finely downy beneath, giving a silvery effect. On the straight species, the leaf tips are rounded; but on biloba, each tip has a deep notch.
The flowers, which typically bloom in May and June—but are now strutting their stuff, thanks to our very warm spring—are large, loose-petaled, and fragrant. Read Daniel Mount’s short profile of the plant in the latest issue of the Washington Park Arboretum Bulletin, and don’t miss seeing this botanical treasure for yourself!