Botanical Study: Saucer Magnolia

Family: Magnoliaceae 

Genus: Magnolia 

Species:  Magnolia × soulangeana

The Saucer Magnolia that grew in my front yard - I miss this beauty!

The Saucer Magnolia that grew in my front yard - I miss this beauty!

Two homes ago, there was a large Saucer Magnolia tree outside one of our front windows. Each February, the tree would burst into bloom and was the first hint that Spring was coming. In my hometown people referred to the tree as a Tulip Tree and that's what I've always called it. When I started sketching its branches a few months ago (as I noticed them blooming around town) I did a bit of research to find out more about this excellent beauty.

saucer magnolia bud and flower
Magnolia × soulangeana was initially bred by French plantsman Étienne Soulange-Bodin (1774–1846), a retired cavalry officer in Napoleon's army, at his château de Fromont near Paris. He crossed Magnolia denudata with M. liliiflora in 1820, and was impressed with the resulting progeny's first precocious flowering in 1826. From France, the hybrid quickly entered cultivation in England and other parts of Europe, and also North America. Since then, plant breeders in many countries have continued to develop this magnolia, and over a hundred named horticultural varieties (cultivars) are now known. (Wikipedia)
Magnolia (A. 56) by Ellsworth Kelly (source)

Magnolia (A. 56) by Ellsworth Kelly (source)

Why I love it: This tree is a show stopper! It begins blooming in late February through early Spring, depending on where you live; its blossoms are often some of the first flowers to appear at the end of Winter. Those blossoms have been said to open like a thousand porcelain goblets; isn't that lovely! I love the silvery gray bark of the branches against the first fuzzy, then gorgeous pink blossoms that welcome Spring.


  • Produces attractive pink and white flowers, appearing as saucers that are 5–10" in diameter.
  • Blooms late February to April.
  • Can be trained to grow as a shrub or small tree.
  • Features thick and soft leaves 3–6" in length - these are dark green on top with a fuzzy underside.

I used old photos from my yard as reference for the Saucer Magnolia branch that I drew. What you see here is the result of lots of sketching and erasing to create a branch that captures what I love best about this tree. I wanted to show its scraggly branches, buds and full blossoms. When I carved the block for this print, I left the lines a bit thick and sketchy, but it didn't capture the delicate lines of this tree. So, I reworked the block, thinning the lines to make the print more elegant and feel like this captures the beauty of the tree much better. I then carved the same branch as a solid background so that I can add the other feature I love in this tree - color! The resulting print is my new favorite.  I'll be reworking the registration of this print to get it just right and will be adding it to my shop soon. I hope you love it too!

Magnolia linocut print - work in progress

Magnolia linocut print - work in progress

Do you have a Saucer Magnolia in your life? I hope you do! 

Research sources: wikipedia, arbor day foundation