Magnolias Are Fading From the Wild, Conservationists Lament


Photos on this blog entry by Jackson Xu/FFI

Magnolias are blooming in gardens everywhere, but nearly half of the species of the famous flowring tree are now threatened with extinction in the wild, experts at Fauna and Flora International (FFI) warn.


“A massive 112 of the 245 known species of wild magnolia around the world are dying out,” the UK-based conservation charity said in a recent news release. “These ancient plants, which evolved before bees appeared, are disappearing due to habitat loss and over-exploitation for timber and traditional medicine.”

Often described as the aristocrats of the plant world, magnolias produce large, beautiful flowers. But in the wild they are used as a source of timber, food and medicine for local communities, FFI said.

“Sadly almost half the known species of magnolia are now threatened with extinction,” FFI Global Trees Campaign coordinator Georgina Magin said in the news release. “Most magnolias take a long time to start flowering and until then they are not reproducing, which means they are very vulnerable to over-exploitation. Without urgent action many of these gems of the forest could be lost forever.”

Magnolias have been cultivated for centuries. Some specimens growing in Chinese temples are believed to be 800 years old and they are still very popular as ornamental plants in gardens, FFI said.

About two thirds of magnolia species are found in Asia, with more than 40 percent of these in southern China. Almost half of all wild Chinese magnolias are now at risk of extinction. One species, Magnolia sinica, is reduced to just 50 trees in the wild.

The remaining species are found in North and South America, where they are also dying out.

Global Trees Campaign

The Global Trees Campaign, a joint partnership between FFI and Botanic Gardens Conservation International, has been working to conserve some of these wild species.

Over the past two years they have been working with partners in Yunnan Province in southern China to increase the wild population of Magnolia sinica. They have already planted 400 nursery-grown saplings in a nature reserve and these are now being tended.

This is providing a much-needed lifeline for this endangered species, FFI noted. “Survival rates appear to be high so far and it is hoped this project could be used as a model to restore more of these glorious species in their natural habitats.”


Photo by Jackson Xu/FFI

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More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn