After the Bloom

I will repeat myself:  I love Magnolia trees. Just over a year ago, in May, 2011, I photographed Magnolia blooms from our tree, and posted them here with words about their beauty and my admiration of them.

We emphasize the fresh beauty of the flowers of so many plants in their seasonal displays of new life and color.  Rightly so, for it is in the flowering that many growing things are the most lovely and appealing.  We even use the term “gone to seed” to apply to things that are past this stage and  are not well kept or have declined to become rundown and useless. Indeed, the annuals in our gardens will run their course, finish their blooming, and wither with the first frost to die, be uprooted by the gardener, and replaced with new, young plants come Spring.

But oh my, what we miss if we enjoy only the blooming of the Magnolia.

Once the creamy flower petals have become leathery and caramelized, they fall off, leaving a center cone that swells with seed. Early on, it resembles some exotic fruit, a blushing tufted pillow covered with velvet.

Left on the tree, the tufted pods begin to burst, revealing treasure inside: shiny scarlet seeds holding on with a single silken thread.

Songbirds love these seeds. Coveted by those who craft holiday wreaths and decorations, the vivid cones and seeds often get harvested by eager hands. If left alone, the seeds turn black and fall to the ground.  I think I love Magnolias even better after the bloom.