Arts  /  May 3, 2020

Core Story: Learning from The Core's Chinese magnolias on Earth Day

magnolia for web.jpg

We saved this shot for the occasion of Earth Day. It was taken a couple of weeks ago when we were exploring along Museum Drive – the street that cuts between our Wyman Park and Charles Village neighborhoods. We don't know much about trees, but we know this is a magnolia, and that it's beautiful, and that it blooms there every year. A friend told us that this is a saucer magnolia, which is also known as a Chinese magnolia, but that in fact, it originated in France.

We looked it up, and it turns out that French calvary officer, and botanist, Etienne Soulange-Bodin created a hybrid of two different ancient strains of magnolia that both originated in China - magnolia liliflora and magnolia denudata in the 1820s. So, despite its Gallic origin, the term ‘Chinese magnolia’ is actually pretty accurate. Almost immediately, the tree became popular in England, and other European countries, and even more so here – south of the Mason-Dixon Line that forms Maryland’s northern border. So popular, that it’s more common in gardens than magnolias originating in North America, resulting in multiple varieties.

We found this story heartening, as (let's face it) this region has not always had a stellar record of embracing world travelers like this magnolia, and treasuring their offspring. As luck would have it, the day we took the picture – down in the halls of power in DC, some nasty remarks were made about the nation where magnolia liliflora and magnolia denudata originated. Since then, a number of violent incidents against Asian Americans have been reported nationwide. Thankfully we haven't yet heard about anything like that in The Core, but that doesn't mean there hasn't been some fallout.

We know what it's like to be the target of hate speech from Washington (our own Congressional District was singled out); and it's not easy. So we would like to encourage everyone here to stick up for any (and every) group that's getting picked on, and show them your support. Especially now, when we all need support the most. When our district became a target in DC, it seemed that the main reason was because our (late, lamented) Congressman, Elijah Cummings was standing strong in just the way we're talking about. Sticking up for yet another group under assault (emigrant detainees), he said, "we're better than this." It was a phrase he had said many times throughout the years, and many others have echoed recently. We’d like to echo it too, and add – now is really the time to show it!

Keep, exploring (safely)!

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