The more than one hundred countries of the world all have their own national flowers.

Each country chooses a national flower that is especially beautiful, of which its people are fond, and which relates to the features and culture of the country, its legends and traditional life style and its customs; the economic value of the flower and its symbolic meaning are also taken into consideration.

Some countries choose such lovely national flowers as the mume, carnation, rose or tulip; others worship the lotus that grows in ponds as a sacred flower, and yet others make their national flowers the red chile-bells belonging to the Liliaceae family so that they will remember for ever the blood shed by their people in the war for independence.

Korean national flower is Magnolia Sieboldii.

In its full shape and beauty, magnolia symbolizes the national character and mettle of the resourceful and indomitable Korean people.

Magnolia Sieboldii–Korean Species


Magnolia is a deciduous, broad-leaved tree belonging to the Magnoliaceae family. It is a Korean species which has been propagated in wide areas of the country from ancient times and has existed throughout the time-honoured history of our nation.

It grows thickly in all areas that are at a lower altitude than 1,400 metres, so excluding the mountainous regions of such northern areas of Korea as Jagang and Ryanggang Provinces.

In particular, it thrives at the foot of mountains of such areas as Kangwon, North and South Phyongan and South Hamgyong Provinces.

It also grows naturally in some areas of northeast China and Japan. But, the Korean peninsula is the original centre of the worldwide distribution of the tree.

Magnolia grows well in places where the average annual temperature is 8-10 degrees C., with the minimum temperature being 30 degrees C. below zero and the maximum, 33 degrees C.

It requires good soil and humidity for growing; it does not grow well in extremely dry soil or in standing water.

It grows well in loamy sand which is half in shadow and contains a great deal of nutrients and a reasonable amount of moisture, as well as in clayey loam mixed with some gravel.

Many shoots grow from the crown of the root of magnolia. There, if left alone, it forms a cluster like shrubs.

Its roots do not grow deep, the main part generally going down to some 40 centimetres below ground level; it has a small number of straight roots and many lateral roots and fibrous roots.

Magnolia is extremely resistant to the cold and to damage by blight and harmful insects.

The Flower of All Flowers


From time immemorial many people have given the name ran (란) (orchid) to fragrant and beautiful flowers.

Kim Il Sung called Korean magnolia the Mokran (Mok [목] means a tree–Tr.) in the sense that it is a ran which blossoms in a tree. Magnolia has unusually attractive flowers and a sweet fragrance. Furthermore, its fruit is fleshy and its leaves are attractive. So this flower is loved by the Korean people.

Magnolia grows to a height of some 2-5 metres, and its stem is greyish brown or greyish white and smooth. The twigs are of light-brown fibre. Its leaves are oval or obovoid and are also alternate. They are some 6-20 centimetres long and 4-10 centimetres wide with a short petiole. The margin of the blade is straight and smooth; at its base it is narrow, but it spreads out to become wide at the top. The upper part of the leaf is dark green and smooth and the lower part is whitish green with light-brown fibre; the leaves are eventually shed. There are between 6 and 13 pairs of veins, with those at the lower part of the leaf being bulbous. Although there are regional differences, the leaves generally begin to appear at the beginning of April, and by April 25 they cover the whole crown of the tree. At the end of October the leaves turn yellow and after a while are shed.

In May and June when the earth is covered with verdant growth snow-white flowers with a diametre of between 7 and 10 centimetres begin to bloom at the tips of its smooth branches. Six to nine conelike petals open one after another and, from among them, yellow pistils and pinkish and light-purple stamens make their appearance. The sizes and colours of the petals and the pistils and stamens are so harmonious that the more one looks at the flower, the more one is fascinated by it.


Propagation of Magnolia

Magnolia Flower

Magnolia propagates by seeding and through vegetative propagation.

If we pick the fruit of magnolia in the middle of September and keep it in semi-darkness for some time, the seeds appear. The seeds do not germinate well because their surface is oily. So they must be rubbed with sand to remove the oiliness; then they should be dried in the shade for 4 or 5 days so that they contain some 20 per cent moisture. Then they should either be sown in fields from the end of September to the first part of October or vernalized and then sown in April of the following year.

Vernalization is done in such a way that immediately after the seeds are collected, they are mixed with wet sand and buried outdoors, or they can be stored for 180 days in cellars where the temperature is about 0-5 degrees C. and the moisture is some 75-80 per cent.

Should the vernalized seeds not sprout well, temperature of 22-24 degrees C. and adequate moisture should be provided for about 10 days to allow them to sprout fully prior to sowing.

Some 5-10 grammes of seeds per square metre should be sown either on ridges or hills by the method of hill seeding or drill seeding and they should be covered with earth to a depth of 2 or 3 centimetres. When the buds have grown to some extent they should be thinned out

A magnolia which has grown after seeding comes into bloom for the first time after 5 or 6 years

What is basic to the vegetative propagation of magnolia is the grafting.

In order to hasten the flowering period, grafting is done by using 2- or 3-year old seedlings as the stock and the branches of flowering trees as the scion. Either cleft grafting is conducted in spring or square bud grafting in June and July. Propagation is also done through layering, division .and cutting.

Planting and Caring for Magnolia


Magnolia grows comparatively well even after being transplanted.

When the tree is being transplanted the rootlets may be damaged because of the long, principal roots. Therefore, it is a good idea to cut, in the spring of the previous year, the long roots of a tree which is to be transplanted so that it will be able to strike many rootlets before being transplanted.

The tree must be transplanted into fairly fertile soil with a moderate amount of moisture and a lot of humus and in places that are not exposed to strong light for long. After the tree has been transplanted its branches should be thinned out, depending on the condition of the roots. In the case of a magnolia which used to grow in the mountains, it is a good idea to cut the tree’s crown and improve it after it has been transplanted.

A magnolia should be shaped and pruned well. In order to grow magnolia to look like a cluster, the central leader must be cut, leaving some 15-20 centimetres so that it grows 3 or 4 principal branches; the following year these principal branches must again be cut to a height of 20-30 centimetres so that 2 or 3 secondary branches are produced for each principal branch.

Magnolia has few twigs because it is not able to produce many buds. Therefore, only dry or decaying branches and other unnecessary branches should be cut. Old or weak trees bear few flowers and are ugly; therefore, they should be improved. If one wants to grow a magnolia in a pot, all that is needed is bud grafting, root grafting or shoot grafting on 2- or 3-year old trees prior to transplanting them into nursery beds and growing them there for a year before potting them. In natural conditions the physiological dormancy of magnolia finishes towards the end of December; in about 40 days after it issues its buds again the tree begins to bloom. Therefore, if one wants to control the period of flowering, it should be done in conformity with this. That is to say, the tree should be put to dormancy in natural conditions and then 14 placed in a greenhouse some 50 to 60 days before it is due to bloom.


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Based on: FLPH - Magnolia Sieboldii, Korea's National Flower