What was the very first flower in existence? It’s the subject of much debate, largely because there is very little, if any, visual evidence of ancestral flowers. However, botanists have discovered that the “original” flower actually looked like a magnolia. It featured a ring of petals with notable stamens and carpels drawing pollinators to its heart.
While there’s no concrete evidence that the magnolia was in fact the very first flower, there’s enough information to suggest its existence during the Cretaceous period, some 145- to 66 million years ago. Fossil records dating from the Tertiary period, about 65- to 2 million years ago, depict what are thought to be magnolias.
It’s said that the tree bearing magnolia flowers was discovered in early 18th-century Martinique by Charles Plumier, a French botanist who named it after another famed botanist, Pierre Magnol. John Bannister, a missionary in Virginia, first introduced the flower to the mainstream when he sent seeds of the Magnolia virginiana variety to a friend in England.
After it was cultivated there, it spurred the growth of dozens of other varieties, including the Magnolia grandiflora. By the late 18th century, the Magnolia denudate made its debut in China. It was introduced by Sir Joseph Banks, an English botanist known for introducing various plants to countries for their commercial and practical uses.
Today, the flower is highly regarded as a spectacular showstopper. Its shapely blooms and lush fragrance lend it a unique quality that sets it apart from other flowers. With so many varieties available, you’ll find magnolias in all types of colors. Choose from crisp whites, soft pinks and reds, vibrant yellows, and radiant purples. While many are simply glossy, others have more complex leaves, with undersides specked with metallic copper or gold.