Plant of the Year 2

The Garden Club of America has chosen its 2017 Plant of the Year – the native Magnolia ashei.

Commonly known as the Ashe magnolia, the plant is a deciduous understory shrub or small tree native to the Florida panhandle that blooms in spring. It has large glossy leaves  and large citrus-scented, creamy white flowers with purple stains at the interior base. The Florida Department of Agriculture lists the Ashe magnolia, also known as the big-leafed magnolia, as endangered due to its restricted area of growth and a small population in the wild.

“Long-lived, tolerant of heat and resistant to diseases, deer and insects, this magnolia is an ideal specimen tree for the small garden,” says Lucy Rhame of the GCA.

Magnolia ashei. Photo: Wikipedia

The Ashe magnolia was named for US Forest Service forester and lifelong botanist William Willard Ashe (1872-1932). Read more about his life here. Ashe also created herbariums in Raleigh (North Carolina) and Washington DC. He died following the third operation for a hernia contracted on a field trip. Find a few more biographical details here.

Since 1995 the Montine McDaniel Freeman Horticulture Medal has been awarded annually by the Garden Club of America to acknowledge the cultivation and use of North American native plants that are little known but deemed worthy to be preserved, propagated, promoted and planted.

Other plants honoured for 2017 are: Carpinus caroliniana (American hornbeam) and Halesia carolina (Carolina silverbell), both honourable mentions; and Aristolochia californica (California pipevine) which received special recognition.

Read more about all four plants here, plus see GCA winners from years past.