Magnolias are a vast genus of flowering plants that are part of the subclass known as Magnolioideae, which is within the family known as Magnoliaceae. They are named after Pierre Magnol, who was a botanist from Montpelier, France. Their genus is ancient, and existed before bees did. The flowers came about to bring about beetle pollination. Because of this, magnolia flowers' carpels are rough, to avoid destruction and damage from beetles eating them and crawling all over them.
Fossilized remnants of magnolias have been discovered from as long ago as the Tertiary Period, which was approximately 100 million years ago. In that time period, the Arctic Circle had a more European kind of climate, as opposed to frigid and arctic, allowing magnolias and other types of plants (like gingko and liriodendron) to grow within a very diverse range of places. However, with the climate change due to the expansion of the polar cap, the plants growing in the northern regions were completely destroyed.
In the year 1703, the French botanist Charles Plumier was discussing a flowering tree on the eastern Caribbean isle of Martinique. He named the species, which was locally referred to as "talauma," the name Magnolia, after the aforementioned Pierre Magnol.
Modern-day magnolias are in many ways very similar to their primitive ancestors. They do not have real sepals or petals, and instead consist of tepals that are similar to petals. They do not make true nectar, and rather attract beetles with sweet-smelling secretions.
In history, magnolias have had a diverse array of uses. Asians cultivated them for their flowers. Asian magnolias first came to the West (America and Europe) in 1780. They are also used as shade trees, with their evergreen foliage that is very glossy. One of the most popular typets is Magnolia grandiflora, which is ornamental and can adjust to many different soils and climates. It is considered to be one of the most popular evergreen trees on the planet. Magnolias have also been used throughout history to harvest timber, which is then used to make furniture.
Today's variety of magnolias were introduced in the 20th century by two men from the United Kingdom (Ernest Wilson and George Forrest). European horticulturists sponsored George Forrest to go hunting for plants. He collected thousands of different plants, all of which he brought back home in the year 1904. Ernest Wilson introduced the world to eight brand-new magnolia species, most of which are still commonly grown today. These include magnolia dawsoniana and Magnolia sprengeri.