Peter Wharton [former curator of the Asian Garden, now deceased upon re-editing this entry in 2018] stood outside my work door early yesterday morning and proclaimed “The Magnolia delavayi is in bloom.” I could predict the next sentence to be uttered. “Do you want to take a photo of it?” Here is one of those photographs, rendered in black and white.
I am hoping that Peter will have the time today to add more information about the plant in the comments. For now, I’ll share that this is an evergreen magnolia from southern China. In 2006, it is [was] rated as endangered IUCN Red List because of its fragmented populations (five or fewer) and continuing degradation of habitat–not encouraging. [Updated in 2018–this story is a good one, the latest assessment places this species as Least Concern due to better data showing a wide distribution].
This particular plant can be seen east of the junction of Handel-Mazzetti trail and Lower Asian Way in the Asian Garden. Each flower lasts less than a day, so this flower has already dropped its tepals. If you’d like a chance to see this rarity, it should have enough flower buds that it will continue to blossom through the upcoming weekend.