The Fayette Citizen-News Page

Wednesday, June 27, 2001

Wieland, Master Gardeners cooperate to save rare trees

Recently John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods and members of the Master Gardeners of Fayette County worked together to transplant several rare big leaf magnolia trees from Lakeside on Redwine subdivision in Fayette County to the gardeners' homes.

There they will stabilize the plants and transplant them again in the fall.

"We're looking into transplanting to the native plant gardens in Fayette County and other historical sites, donating some to [the University of Georgia] and the Atlanta Botanical Gardens," said David Cree, the local horticulturist who headed up the project.

The trees were discovered in May after a visitor to the community couldn't identify the trees and called Cree, said a company spokesman. Cree then met with Andy Steele, Wieland's builder on site. A search by Steele, Cree and other horticulturists yielded over 30 plants.

"Some of the trees were 30-35 feet tall," said Steele. "The large trees will remain here on the property and continue to grow. They add to the appeal of our wooded home sites and are really beautiful. We're delighted to be helping save and cultivate these magnificent trees."

Big leaf magnolias (magnolia macrophylla), with leaves over three feet long giving them a tropical appearance, are native to the woods of Ohio and Kentucky, yet are not common anywhere. Most populations are very small and isolated, making their discovery rare.

"I've been a horticulturist for 30 years and have never seen big leaf magnolias in the wild before," said Cree. "This is the only place in Fayette County where the big leaf is known to exist.

"We're thrilled to have the opportunity to raise some of these elusive trees and introduce them to Fayette County," he added.

The trees also produce the largest flowers of the genus.

Originally introduced into European gardens in 1800, big leaf magnolias are seldom cultivated there or here today. Their leaves must be protected from wind and direct sunlight, and they require a rich, moist soil, making them too temperamental for the average gardener.

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