From Academic Kids
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Magnolia grandiflora (Southern magnolia)
A large tree at Hemingway, South Carolina
The genus is named after Pierre Magnol, a botanist from Montpellier in France. The first species belonging to this genus to be identified was M. virginiana (Sweetbay magnolia), found by missionaries sent to North America in the 1680s. The second was another North American plant, M. grandiflora (Southern magnolia), identified early in the 18th century.
Magnolia is an ancient genus. Having evolved before bees appeared, the flowers developed to encourage pollination by beetles. As a result, the carpels of Magnolia flowers are tough to avoid damage. Fossilised specimens of M. acuminata have been found dating to 20 million years ago, and of plants identifiably belonging to the Magnoliaceae back to 95 million years ago. Another primitive aspect of Magnolias are their lack of distinct sepals or petals. The term tepal has been coined to refer to the intermediate element that Magnolia has instead.
In general, Magnolia is a genus which has attracted a lot of horticultural interest. Hybridisation has been immensely successful in combining the best aspects of different species to give plants which flower at an earlier age than the species themselves, as well as having more impressive flowers. One of the most popular garden magnolias is a hybrid, M. x soulangeana (Saucer magnolia; hybrid M. liliiflora x M. denudata).
The bark from M. officinalis has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine, where it is known as houpu. In Japan, M. obvata has been used in a similar manner. The aromatic bark contains magnolol and honokiol, two polyphenolic compounds that have demonstrated anti-anxiety and anti-angiogenic properties. Magnolia bark also has been shown to reduce allergic and asthmatic reactions.