Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum

Before there were bees

Posted: April 12, 2012 at 20:58 pm Author: Westonbirt's learning and participation team

This Easter, Westonbirt’s learning and participation team have created two great family events, with an Easter Challenge (3 – 6 April) and an exploration of Jurassic Plants (10 – 12 April) on offer for families. Trails amongst the trees and craft activities make this the perfect spring day out – here’s a taste of some of the amazing tree facts you’ll find on the trails!

Magnolias are thought to be one of the earliest flowering plants. Fossil evidence of the ancestors of our existing magnolias has been found in North America dating from 95 million years ago (late Cretaceous period).


During the Eocene period (54 - 34 million years ago) the climate became much warmer, meaning that magnolias could spread from North America, across the Iceland-Faroe land bridge to Europe, and then onwards to east Asia.

During this time magnolias encircled the globe. When the climate cooled once more magnolias became extinct in Europe, splitting its range in two between the Americas and Asia.

Magnolia flowers evolved many millions of years before there were bees, butterflies, wasps and flies and so they relied on beetles as their pollinators. The flowers are large and cup-shaped to help heavy clumsy beetles to land!

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