Among the many southern Appalachian delights of the Botanical Gardens at Asheville, this umbrella magnolia (or umbrella-tree) in particular caught my eye.
Magnolia tripetala is one of eight species of magnolia native to North America north of Mexico. Described as having a “disagreeable” fragrance (I wasn’t able to get close enough to smell it), it shares with the predominantly Japanese Magnolia obovata (syn. Magnolia hypoleuca) the quality of emitting benzenoids with methyl benzoate as the main constituent in its floral fragrance (see Azuma, H. et al. 1997. Chemical divergence in floral scents of Magnolia and allied genera (Magnoliaceae). Plant Spec. Biol.. 12: 69-83.). Correspondingly, it also seems that the nearest living relative of Magnolia tripetala is its partner in methyl benzoate emissions: Magnolia obovata; see Yin-Long et al. 1995. A Chloroplast DNA Phylogenetic Study of the Eastern Asia-Eastern North America Disjunct Section Rytidospermum of Magnolia (Magnoliaceae). American Journal of Botany. 82(12): 1582-1588.
Distributed throughout many parts of the eastern continental United States, Magnolia tripetala is a species typically of rich woods and ravines (it grows streamside at Asheville BG), though sometimes found in the coastal plain areas. It is a deciduous tree growing to a height of 15m (50ft.).