Magnolia: Gone to Seed

We kicked off nature study this year by studying the fruit of the Southern Magnolia tree. We had the opportunity to observe the transformation of the fruit as it opens to reveal its cache of seeds.

While ripening, the fruit remains closed up tight and firmly attached to the tree.

After the fruit has past its prime, its flesh begins to pull back, giving a glimpse of the seeds inside.

Eventually, the fruit dies back completely, allowing its scarlet seeds to dangle freely by thin white threads.

It was such a privilege to watch and document this amazing and beautiful transformation of fruit to seed.

The boys were even inspired. I believe their detailed and carefully crafted representations testify to that fact.

Fruit of the Magnolia

For Nature Study, I try to pick out one or two specific trees that we will study throughout the year. We will study them at various times, observing their changes with the seasons. One of the trees we will be following this year is a Southern Magnolia living in the park across the street.

In the fall, our Magnolia bears fruit. 

Magnolia Fruit In Situ

But before you can properly study a tree, you must swing from her branches. It's a rule.


With that out of the way, we gathered our low hanging fruit and headed back to the classroom.

Poetry is full of sadness of the fading flower, whereas rightly it should be the gladness of the flower that fades, because its work is done for the precious seed at its heart. The whole attention of the child should be fixed upon the developing fruit instead of the fading and falling petals.

- Anna Botsford Comstock, HANDBOOK OF NATURE STUDY

The fruit of a plant is its vehicle for producing and distributing seed. We had an interesting discussion about all the different fruits that are falling this time of year and the different mechanisms and partnerships that are utilized to distribute them. Michael commented that the squirrel that buries an acorn is really an oak tree farmer.

But we are talking magnolias here, not oaks. 

The boys got out their Nature Journals and their watercolors. Here is the fruit of their labor:

Fruit of Magnolia Grandiflora by King (watercolor on paper)

Fruit of Magnolia Grandiflora by Michael (watercolor on paper)