Magnolia is a large genus of about 210 flowering plant species in the subfamily Magnolioideae of the family Magnoliaceae. It is named after French botanist Pierre Magnol.
Magnolia is an ancient genus. Having evolved before bees appeared, the flowers developed to encourage pollination by beetles. As a result, the carpels of Magnolia flowers are tough, to avoid damage by eating and crawling beetles. Fossilised specimens of M. acuminata have been found dating to 20 million years ago, and of plants identifiably belonging to the Magnoliaceae dating to 95 million years ago. Another primitive aspect of Magnolias is their lack of distinct sepals or petals.
In 1703 Charles Plumier (1646–1704) described a flowering tree from the island of Martinique in his Genera. He gave the species, known locally as 'talauma', the genus name Magnolia, after Pierre Magnol. The English botanist William Sherard, who studied botany in Paris under Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, a pupil of Magnol, was most probably the first after Plumier to adopt the genus name Magnolia. He was at least responsible for the taxonomic part of Johann Jacob Dillenius's Hortus Elthamensis and of Mark Catesby's Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands. These were the first works after Plumier's Genera that used the name Magnolia, this time for some species of flowering trees from temperate North America.
Carolus Linnaeus, who was familiar with Plumier's Genera, adopted the genus name Magnolia in 1735 in his first edition of Systema naturae, without a description but with a reference to Plumier's work. In 1753, he took up Plumier's Magnolia in the first edition of Species plantarum. Since Linnaeus never saw an herbarium specimen (if there ever was one) of Plumier's Magnolia and had only his description and a rather poor picture at hand, he must have taken it for the same plant which was described by Catesby in his 1730 Natural History of Carolina. He placed it in the synonymy of Magnolia virginiana var. fœtida, the taxon now known as Magnolia grandiflora.
The species that Plumier originally named Magnolia was later described as Annona dodecapetala by Lamarck, and has since been named Magnolia plumieri and Talauma plumieri (and still a number of other names) but is now known as Magnolia dodecapetala.
The bark from Magnolia officinalis has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine, where it is known as hou po (厚朴). In Japan, kōboku, M. obovata has been used in a similar manner. The aromatic bark contains magnolol and honokiol, two polyphenolic compounds that may have demonstrated anti-anxiety and anti-angiogenic properties. Magnolia bark also may have been shown to reduce allergic and asthmatic reactions.
Magnolia has attracted the interest of the dental research community because magnolia bark extract inhibits many of the bacteria responsible for caries and periodontal disease. In addition, the constituent magnolol interferes with the action of glucosyltransferase, an enzyme needed for the formation of bacterial plaque. In parts of Japan, the leaves of magnolia obovata are used for wrapping food and as cooking dishes.
Magnolia flowers are also used in popular culture. Magnolia grandiflora is the official state flower of both Mississippi and Louisiana. The flower's abundance in Mississippi is reflected in its nickname of "Magnolia State". The magnolia is also the official state tree of Mississippi. Historically, magnolias have been associated with the Southern United States. Siebold's Magnolia (Magnolia sieboldii) is the national flower of North Korea. The Grateful Dead's second most live played song is Sugar Magnolia. The title name of Paul Thomas Anderson's movie, Magnolia. Magnolia is also a song by Jorge Ben Jor.
The natural range of Magnolia species is a disjunct distribution, with a main center in east and southeast Asia and a secondary center in eastern North America, Central America, the West Indies, and some species in South America. [source : Magnolia]
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