Deciduous and Evergreen Trees at Kew Gardens

Magnolias, both deciduous and evergreen, have been planted in many parts of Kew Gardens; the mound on which the Temple of Aeolus is sited is enlivened by these trees blooming in spring. They produce solitary, often fragrant, flowers and the showiest of them all are the large-flowered deciduous ones which bloom before the leaves open. After the white starry flowers of Magnolia stellata from Japan have faded, the outsized pink, blooms of M. campbellii and M. veitchii open in a grouped planting to the west of Princess Walk.

If a frost occurs after magnolia flowers have opened, their splendour is suddenly lost as the petals turn brown. On the other hand, the cream, fragrant flowers produced by the evergreen, M. grandiflora, do not open until well into summer. This glossy-leaved magnolia comes from the south-east of the United States, where it can grow into a pyramidal tree up to 25 metres (82 feet) high. In Britain, it is most often trained against a south-facing wall as is the case on the front of Cambridge Cottage and on either side of the entrance to the Herbarium.

The tulip tree, also a member of the magnolia family, produces cup-shaped green-yellow flowers marked with orange in mid-summer well after the leaves have developed. This large hardwood tree grows in forests in eastern North America alongside hickory, sweetgum, maple, oak and elm.

Spring

Spring (Photo credit: Barbara Rich)

Most insect-pollinated tree flowers are colourful and showy, producing nectar to attract their pollinators. Flowers of trees from the rose family, including hawthorns (Crataegus), apples (Malus), and pears (Pyrus) all attract bees. At Kew, these trees are grouped together in an area between the Temperate House and the Pagoda. Bees do not fly in the rain, so if wet weather persists for several days when these flowers are out, only a small proportion will be pollinated.

The path from Cumberland Gate leads past the Herbaceous Ground and Rock Garden on the right, and the Temple of Aeolus and the Woodland Garden on the left. Leafy canopies of deciduous oaks and birches in the Woodland Garden cast shadows on the ground, creating ideal conditions for shade-loving plants such as anemones, primulas, hellebores and North American trilliums.

Beneath a large black walnut tree two kinds of toothwort flowers appear without any leaves in April. Since these plants contain no green colouring (chlorophyll), they cannot manufacture their own food, so they live as parasites on tree roots. Purple toothwort, Lathraea clandestina, a native of southern Europe, has deep purple flowers, while Lathraea squamaria bears a tall, pinkish flower spike. Both species attract bumblebees.

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20. April 2012 by Dave Pinkney
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