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Extinction watch: Over half the world’s Magnolia species face extinction

In ancientChina,magnoliaswere considered perfect symbols of womanly beauty and gentleness. In South American, white magnolias are commonly seen in bridal bouquets because the fl owers are thought to refl ect and emphasise the bride’s purity and nobility.

Excessively used in traditional Chinese medicine, Magnolia Offi cinalis and Magnolia Sinica are critically endangered with most of its wild populations being wiped out. Magnolia Offi cinalis’ bark has been used since 100 AD for stress and anxiety, coughs and colds, and to reduce allergy symptoms.

Magnolias are among ancient groups of fl owering plants. Some specimens that grow in the precincts of Chinese temples are estimated to be up to 800 years old.

Some two thirds of known magnolia species are found in Asia, with over 40% growing in southern China.

In the Americas, north and south, where magnolias are also found in the wild, a similar picture is emerging. In Colombia, a report concludes that the threat of extinction hangs over 30 of its native species. One species, magnolia wolfi i, is reduced to less than 10 individuals as coffee plantations take over the national habitat.

The fl owers do not produce true nectar, but they produce large quantities of pollen high in protein. Magnolia fl owers are typically pollinated by beetles. The signifi cance of their potential loss is considered by experts as a threat to the genetic diversity of the species. Magnolias also serve as highly sensitive indicators of the well-being of the forests in which they are found.

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