Magnolias bear showy, often fragrant flowers in springtime on species native to temperate regions, and the evergreen tropical magnolia trees usually flower in summer. Considered among the most primitive of plants, the magnolia flower has many stamens, pistils, petals and sepals( petal-like bracts). They are insect or wind pollinated are become aggregate fruits with many red seeds.
Some varieties of magnolias produce saucer-shaped blossoms on their branch tips. The flower's rounded petals and sepals are widely opened, nearly flat around the flower center. This is abstractly described as being "saucer shaped". Examples include Ash's magnolia (Magnolia ashei) and the Alexandrina saucer magnolia (Magnolia x soulangeana 'Alexandrina').
Cup-shaped flowers resemble saucer-shaped flowers overall, but a cup-shaped magnolia blossom's round petals noticeably curve upwards at their edges. Some may describe it better as resembling a bowl. The Yulan magnolia (Magnolia denudata), southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) and the whitebark magnolia (Magnolia hypoleuca) have large cup-shaped flowers.
Combining the form of the previous two flowers, the cup-and-saucer shaped magnolia blossom has outer petals and sepals that are wide-opening and flat while an inner core of petals remain tight and more upright to create a central cup. Magnolia campbellii and hybrid cultivar Peppermint Stick are perfect examples with this type of flower, although many magnolia tree flowers may attain a cup-and-saucer look as the flowers mature and open.
Some may say these flowers look like an incandescent light bulb. Goblet-shaped magnolia blossoms are upright with angled, tongue-like petals and sepals that are look like a vase or wine glass. Even when old, the flowers never are wide opening or flat. The lily-flowering magnolia (Magnolia liliflora), earleaf umbrella tree (Magnolia fraserii) and hybrid cultivar Galaxy bear goblet-shaped flowers.
Numerous, strap-like petals and sepals give some magnolia flowers a starry or octopus-like appearance. The petals are widely opening and flop and droop, looking like frilly mops. The quintessential example is the star magnolia (Magnolia stellata) and all of its cultivars with white, pink or violet petals.