So everyone knows magnolias were around with the dinosaurs right? Well kind of…
Most of the modern 220ish species of magnoliaceae probably didn’t evolve until well after the K-T extinction event that wiped out the dinos!
The fossil record for this group of plants does lead us strongly into the late Cretaceous with most genus of early magnolias now being extinct. There are however two lines that have survived through to this day that were well represented in the fossil record of the Cretaceous.
Liriodendron (the tulip trees) are a genus consisting of 2 species L. chinense and L. tulipifera and Manglietia a genus consisting of 29 species although it was once bigger (many are now lumped together in the genus Magnolia) Their presence in the late Cretaceous is given away by a number of fossils, mostly fossil seeds and leaves.
A number of fossil genera that can be linked to the magnoliaceae take us much further back to about 110 million years in the Albian of the early Cretaceous. This is where we find fossils of Archaeanthus lunnenbergeri and Liriophyllum. Archaeanthus and Liriophyllum are found in association with each other and are thought to have been born by the same plant. Liriophyllum is similar in general morphology to Liriodendron but differing in leaf structure and the fruiting structure Archaeanthus differs from extant Magnolias.
Other Magnoliaceae fossil species of the Cretaceous are Liriodendroidea, Padragkutia and Litocarpon.
The Magnoliaceae are represented in the fossil garden by Magnolia (manglietia) chevalieri, M. Insignis, M. grandiflora, M. kobus var. stellata, M. sieboldii, Lireodendron chinense and L. tulipifera.