We dimmed the lights and put on some Barry White albums this spring and signs are looking good that we may have some hybrid magnolia seed soon. When our Magnolia lotungensis (Parakmeria lotungensis) at the JC Raulston Arboretum came into flower I collected some pollen to try on a few of our other magnolias which were in bloom. M. lotungensis, eastern joy lotus tree, is one of the few magnolias with separate male and female plants. It is very rare in the US and takes years and years before it begins flowering with fragrant, creamy white flowers.
When ours began flowering in 2008, a full decade after planting it, we saw it was a male and so we kissed any chance of seed on it goodbye. Interestingly we found that the male parts shed their pollen on the afternoon of the first day the flowers open - typical magnolias shed their pollen on the second afternoon. Not wanting to waste good pollen though, we tried it on a bunch of our other magnolias which were in bloom at the time. We're hoping that the incredible upright, narrow form and glossy, deep green foliage will be passed on to the offspring but the hybrids may flower at a younger age. Among the seed parents I patiently brushed pollen on were:
M. figo var. crassipes 'Purple Queen' - Seedpods are not looking good but we're still hoping.
M. virginiana Louisiana group - Seed is looking good on this plant which is sometimes known as variety ludoviciana.
M. yuyuanensis - This one is looking very good so we have high hopes for some hybrids.
M. virginiana xM. insignis - We were looking for a complex hybrid by crossing with this pink flowered selection but no luck (next year I'll try playing side 2 of Led Zeppelin 4).
It's still too early to know for sure what we'll have but with any luck we'll have some fantastic seedling next spring to evaluate.