Magnolia is a large genus of about 210 flowering plant species of the family Magnoliaceae.
The natural range of Magnolia species is a disjunct distribution, with a main center in east and southeast Asia and a secondary center in eastern North America, Central America, the West Indies, and some species in South America. The genus is named after French botanist Pierre Magnol. Magnolia is an ancient genus. Having evolved before bees appeared, the flowers developed to encourage pollination by beetles. As a result, the carpels of Magnolia flowers are tough, to avoid damage by eating and crawling beetles. Another primitive aspect of Magnolias is their lack of distinct sepals or petals. The term tepal has been coined to refer to the intermediate element that Magnolia has instead. In 1703 Charles Plumier (1646-1704) described a flowering tree from the island of Martinique in his Genera. He gave the species the genus name Magnolia, after Pierre Magnol.
Carolus Linnaeus, who was familiar with Plumier's Genera, adopted the genus name Magnolia in 1735 in his first edition of Systema naturae, without a description but with a reference to Plumier's work. In 1753, he took up Plumier's Magnolia in the first edition of Species plantarum. Since Linnaeus never saw an herbarium specimen (if there ever was one) of Plumier's Magnolia and had only his description and a rather poor picture at hand, he must have taken it for the same plant which was described by Catesby in his 1730 Natural History of Carolina. He placed it in the synonymy of Magnolia virginiana variety foetida, the taxon now known as Magnolia grandiflora.