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Why we heart Otago: Magnolia Tree

Wednesday 3 October 2018 2:29pm

Magnolia brings the promise of spring

Otago’s beloved Magnolia tree is in full bloom – heralding the arrival of spring to the University community.

The tree, located in the Quad between the Department of Geology and the Clocktower, was planted in 1965 by Dr Geoff Baylis, Head of the Department of Botany from 1945 to 1979, and is now dedicated to his memory.

Magnolia tree 418pxEach year since 1995 John Williams (former Geology Department Manager) recorded the date of the first bloom, dubbed “Magnolia Day”, and that tradition is now continued by Geology’s Hamish Bowman.

“I think much like the mid-winter carnival, or Groundhog Day in the States, Magnolia Day is a welcome splash of colour heralding the approaching spring and an end to the grey days and long nights of winter, especially for those of us who look out onto the Quad every day. Which is reason enough to celebrate.”

This year's first bud was observed to be beginning to open around 11am on Sunday morning (5 August) by Geology staff member Dr Steve Smith. By first thing Monday morning (6 August) it was fully open.

This is the third earliest flowering since recordings began in 1995 (the second earliest if you discount the “funny 2011 bloom” when just one flower bloomed on 1 August with the rest of the tree following much later). In 2014, the first flower opened on 3 August.

While Mr Bowman can't be sure of the reasons for this year's earlier flowering, he suspects that warm temperatures, the age and height of the tree, and also the colour of the paving stones might be factors.

Whatever the reasons, Magnolia Day is a celebrated moment on the informal University calendar.

Magnolia in quad 650px