Thursday, October 15, 2009

Old familiar mystery

This small tree was growing beside one of the ponds in the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Gardens. The fruits, about the size of cherries, attracted our attention:

Branches over our heads.

Oddly-shaped clumps.

A single fruit, splitting its spotted husk, and the pink growth cone.

I couldn't recognize this, and I've been Googling "Chinese tree fruits", plugging in names of fruit as they occurred to me. I've looked at kumquats, loquats, goji berry, quince, longans, pomegranates, persimmon, strawberry tree, litchi, and so on; anything smallish that I couldn't remember the growth pattern of.

Now I'm hungry.

I found nothing like this, until I examined the twigs and those fuzzy knobs on the tips of some branches. Aha! Magnolia! Google that!

It's the Star magnolia, Magnolia stellata, a familiar tree in Vancouver parks, named for its white flowers. Not all trees produce fruit exactly like this, but the general pattern is the same. At the end of the season, the husks dry out, and the fruit splits open to reveal hard orange seeds. I've seen those before.

There's a good photo on Flickr, here.

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