|Type:||large shrub or small tree|
Star Magnolia, Magnolia stellata, is a very slow growing perennial shrub or small tree native to Japan with large showy white or pink flowers in early spring before the appearance of the leaves. It is closely related to Kobushi magnolia (Magnolia kobus), and is treated by many botanists as a variety or even a cultivar of that species.
Magnolia stellata is a species which may be found growing wild in certain parts of the Ise Bay area of central Honshū, Japan’s largest island, at elevations between 50m and 600m. It grows by streamsides and in moist, boggy areas with other woody plants such as Enkianthus cernuus, Corylopsis glabrescens var. gotoana and Berberis sieboldii.
This tree grows 4.6 to 6 m (15 to 20 ft) in height, and spreads to 4.6m in width at maturity. It displays upright oval growth in youth, and spreads and mounds with age. 
The tree blooms at a young age, with the slightly fragrant 7–10 cm (3–4 in) flowers covering the bare plant in late winter or early spring before the leaves appear. There is natural variation within the flower color, which varies from white to rich pink; the hue of pink magnolias changes from year to year, depending on day and night air temperatures prior to and during flowering. The flowers are star shaped, with at least 12 thin, delicate tepals- some cultivars have more than 30. The leaves open bronze-green, turning to deep green as they mature, and yellow before dropping in autumn. They are oblong and about 4 in (10 cm) long by about an 1.5 in (4 cm) wide.
It produces a reddish-green, knobby aggregate fruit which is about 2 in long and matures and opens in early autumn. The fruit often drops before fully developed, but mature fruit opens by slits to reveal orange-red seeds.
Young twigs have smooth, shiny chestnut brown bark, while the main trunks have smooth, silvery gray bark. Like the saucer magnolia, it is deciduous, revealing a twiggy, naked frame in winter. Plants have thick, fleshy roots which are found fairly close to the surface and do not like disturbance.
This species has become naturalized in parts of North America, after it was introduced in the 1860s, and is a common ornamental in Europe and much of North America. This species was first introduced to the UK in 1877 or 1878, most likely by Charles Maries, when he was collecting for Veitch’s Nursery.
Spring frosts can damage the flowers. The shrub prefers deep, acidic soil. It may be propagated by seed, or more easily by rooting cuttings taken after the flower buds have formed.
Pests and Diseases
- Hunt, D. (ed). 1998. Magnolias and their allies. International Dendrology Society & Magnolia Society. ISBN 0-9517234-8-0