Plantations bids a sad farewell to its beautiful Magnolia
By Christopher Dunn, Ph.D., the E. N. Wilds Director
Having recently joined Cornell Plantations, I am immediately amazed by the quality of the staff, gardens, natural areas, and the unique and often sacred plants in our collections. Many trees that grace our botanical garden and arboretum have been providing beauty and shade since the earliest days of Plantations. Among those is the beautiful Magnolia macrophylla, the big-leafed magnolia nestled between the Nevin Welcome Center and the Lewis Education Building in the heart of the botanical garden. In this location, it is far from its normal range of the Southeastern United States. This magnificent tree, estimated to be over 50 years old, has been a key feature of the botanical garden since 1966. It has aged and elicited countless cries of wonder as visitors pass under its canopy and admire its huge and beautiful flowers. It is, unfortunately, reaching the end of its life. We have been tracking the health of this tree, noting various signs of decay and poor health, for many years. Our lead arborist recently said to me, “as with all living things, there comes a time when steps to preserve our trees and protect our visitors and staff are limited to only one option. This magnolia, sadly, has many serious structural and disease issues, which combined pose a significant risk of failure.”
And so it is with great regret that our treasured big-leafed magnolia will come down by the end of season. We invite you to say goodbye and marvel at its giant leaves and beautiful blooms one final time. Our horticulture staff has been growing a seedling of this tree, anticipating that this replacement will one day be needed. Once the seedling has been planted, we will have the pleasure of watching it grow and mature and enjoying another 50 years of splendor. Although we are sad, we take heart in this reminder from Aldo Leopold “There are two great acts, one is to harvest a tree because it involves faith that another will grow. The other is to plant a tree, because one must believe that it will grow.”
The video below features Lee Dean, Plantations' Lead Arborist, explaining his careful and thoughtful decision to remove this much beloved tree.
To read Lee Dean's interview with the Ithaca Journal about this tree, click here.