Blowin' in the Wind

Fall Plant Sale

Upcoming Volunteer Sessions

Come Again...What Was That?

Kaul Wildflower Garden Projects

Join Me at Ruffner Mountain

Volunteer Feedback

Buzz Indeed!

Manion's Musings

Blowin’ in the Wind

The genus Magnolia is ancient, having evolved millions of years ago. Fossils of Magnolia acuminata (cucumber magnolia) have been found dating back to 20 million years ago – well before bees had appeared. As a way to get pollinated, magnolias evolved floral structures that would attract beetles.

I’ve long been fascinated by the myriad ways that plants have evolved diverse and numerous methods for getting their seeds dispersed. Generally, the numerous methods are divided into two categories…biotic and abiotic – in other words, by living organisms and by non-living mechanisms. In the biotic category would be birds, insects, reptiles, mammals, etc. Examples of abiotic mechanisms would be wind, water, landslides, etc. In some case, more than one mechanism is used.

In the genus Magnolia, seeds are produced in a “fruit” called an aggregate of follicles. The structure to a certain degree resembles a pinecone and contains many ovaries. As this structure matures and dries, it dehisces (splits open) to reveal its seeds. If the seeds were to fall directly below the parent tree, they may not germinate due to competition for water and light. Therefore, the magnolias had to devise a way to get the seeds away from their parents. When watching the video below of the fruit of one of our beautiful specimens of Magnolia macrophylla (big-leaf magnolia), notice that as each seed is loosened from its receptacle, rather than immediately dropping, it first dangles on a thread…called a funiculus. Why this?! By dangling its scarlet seeds in the breeze rather than immediately dropping them to the ground, it is essentially saying to the birds “come eat me, pass me through your gut to remove the fleshy seed coating and then defecate my seed elsewhere where it will have a better chance of germinating.” Clever of these trees…no?



The Mother of all Fall Plant Sales

The Gardens is gearing up for what is likely the best Fall Plant Sale in Alabama on Saturday, October 16 and Sunday, October 17. Since that Saturday is when we would normally have a volunteer session in the KWG, we are inviting our volunteers to instead help at the plant sale. If you want to join the excitement, simply fill out the Fall Plant Sale Volunteer Form and send it to our wonderful Volunteer Coordinator, Mary-Bestor Grant.

Come Again...
What Was That?

Translating botanical names
for great results

Instructor: John Manion
Saturday, October 23
1-4 p.m.
$25 Members
$32 Non-members

You’ll be surprised how much you can discern about a plant merely by understanding its botanical name. Botanical nomenclature topics to be discussed will be history, formatting, pronunciation, common prefixes and suffixes, recommended references, and much more! You'll leave ready to impress your friends with your ability to recite multi-syllabic words that they've never heard! Don't worry, there won't be an exam at the end! If time and weather allows, we'll step into the Gardens to try our newly-learned skills.

Join Me at Ruffner Mountain

Saturday, October 2
2-4 p.m.

Here’s a chance to visit the beautiful Ruffner Mountain Nature Center and hear me wax endlessly about its many beautiful native plants.

Click here for more info or to register online>>

Upcoming Volunteer Sessions

Thursday, October 14
Saturday, October 16 (Fall Plant Sale)
Thursday, October 28
*All sessions 8-11 a.m.

For each session, we meet at the gazebo at the entrance to the KWG. Please bring sun protection, insect repellent, something to drink and any favorite tools you like to use. Some people also like to bring paper and a writing utensil.

Helping in the KWG offers many opportunities in addition to the altruistic aspect of supporting such an important community organization, among them: the opportunity to learn about native plants and horticulture in general from someone who is knowledgeable and passionate about these topics; getting to work alongside interesting people in a beautiful setting; a chance to get exercise while having fun; and the occasional opportunity to take plants home!

We normally meet the second and fourth Thursday of each month, and the third Saturday. You don’t have to commit to attending every session…you can come whenever possible, but please let me know you intend to attend. And…you don’t need to know anything about horticulture!

KWG Volunteers Projects

As you can imagine, with the heat and lack of precipitation, keeping the Garden watered has been a challenge. We have done almost no planting, but as soon as we see a marked lowering in temperatures and some rain (hopefully) we will turn our attention to planting and transplanting. There will be numerous species to add to our collection, many of which were grown from wild-collected germplasm…most frequently seed. Further, we will dig many of our existing species that are scattered throughout the KWG and consolidate them into larger clumps, which will lend more visual impact.

We are preparing to do some tree removals and some limbing-up. If this type of work is not done occasionally, a garden quickly turns into a shade garden and limits the variety of species that will thrive. We take tree removal very seriously and select trees due to the desirability (and abundance) of their species, as well their health. The species that we will be removing the most of, is Liquidambar styraciflua – sweetgum. Although an important native species, it is referred to an “opportunistic” plant that spreads rapidly and can crowd-out other species.

Some people love nature so much they carry a tree with them
at all times! Actually, this is Billy West – one of our most
dedicated volunteers. He’s been assigned the moniker
“Paul Bunyan” due to his acumen at tree pruning

Volunteer Feedback

“I just wanted to let you know I really enjoyed my first day volunteering in the KWF Garden with John. He does a great job utilizing volunteers. He is a great communicator (website info, e-mails, & in person), organized, makes good use of our time, shows appreciation and shares his knowledge of & interest in the garden. We know there are pluses and minuses to working with volunteers and it takes the right person such as John to make it work for both the volunteer and the employee.”



Kaul Wildflower Garden

Manion's Musings

"Man, despite his many accomplishments, owes his existence to a 6” layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains."

Did you know?

“If all Earth's history were compressed into an hour, flowering plants would exist for only the last 90 seconds? -National Geographic
(An excellent article on the evolution of flowering plants!)

Kaul Wildflower Buzz, Indeed!

Last week, while performing a tree assessment in the KWG, I noticed when looking way up into a Pinus taeda (loblolly pine) a mass of something on the trunk that appeared to be slowly moving. This was something that a person would really have to look directly at in order to notice. It was a feral colony of honey bees! I notified our “bee people” in the Alabama Cooperative Extension Services office, who got very excited and confirmed this colony’s existence. Our Director tells me he’s noticed them in this tree for the last few years. You can bet we won’t be bothering this tree in the near future!


Please forward this newsletter to any individuals or groups you think might be interested. Likewise, if you prefer not to receive it, simply let me know and I’ll remove your name.

Thanks for your interest and support!


John T. Manion
Kaul Wildflower Garden Curator
Birmingham Botanical Gardens
205.414.3985 | |