Lottah Nursery Tasmania, Australia
'Butterflies' was bred by Phil Savage by crossing the yellow flowered M. acuminata with M. denudata 'Sawada's Cream'.
Other than the parent M. acuminata, seldom encountered in Australia, yellow magnolias are a fairly new addition to the range of colors, with small numbers slowly coming on the market. The pale yellow 'Elizabeth' has been available for several years; 'Butterflies' is a newer addition with the darkest flowers of the precocious yellow cultivars.
Described by D. J. Callaway in her book The World of Magnolias as being a favourite yellow amongst Magnolia Society members at a 1988 meeting, she predicted this to become one of the most popular magnolia varieties; it is proving so in North America.
Our experience is that it is not as precocious as the x soulangeana hybrids which usually flower in their second year. Our specimen took all of 4 years and reached a height of 2m before bearing its first flowers. These first flowers were atypical, being quite small and sporting narrow tepals, quite unlike what they would look like the following year. This confirms reports that the first flowering of some magnolias are atypical for that cultivar.
Flowering begins in late October, 7 weeks after M. denudata starts, and lasts for a month. Flowers consist of 10-15 tepals of around 110 mm length and 70 mm at its widest. Specimen pictured above measured 270 mm across, substantially larger than those of 'Elizabeth'.
Growth of our specimen on its own roots is much more vigorous than that of our grafted M. x 'Elizabeth'. In the absence of mature plants we can only estimate size of 'Butterflies' under cultivation to be around 5-6 m.
(click on thumbnails for larger images)
50401-4986 (3, 7, 19, 45)