Merrill hybrid magnolia is notable for abundant blooms, vigorous growth, and cold hardiness. Its clouds of 3½-inch flowers, each with 15 white tepals, are a fragrant sign that spring has really arrived. A faster-growing magnolia, Merrill begins blooming at a very young age.
Members of the genus Magnolia are known for the stunning beauty of their usually large flowers, which emerge prior to the foliage in spring, and are often fragrant. While shades of pink are the most common bloom color, the Magnolia palette also includes white, yellows, and purples. Another dominant feature is a prominent fruiting body of small follicles forming a cone-like shape. The species range from small trees to very large trees and shrubs.
Magnolias are an ancient genus that appeared before bees; early pollinators are believed to have been beetles. They are native to eastern and southeastern Asia and eastern North America, and Central and South America; most are not hardy in the Chicago region. Buds and blooms of the magnolias that do thrive here are often subject to damage from cold spring nights. The genus includes 300 species and numerous hybrids and cultivars. The Chicago Botanic Garden's collection includes almost 60 varieties of magnolia and more than 150 plants.