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ORRIN MORRIS: Ancient magnolia genus has over 100 evergreen, deciduous trees growing in Himalayas

This Sunday is Palm Sunday. It is the celebration of Jesus' royal entry into Jerusalem riding on a colt. People gathered along the roadway and the streets waving palm branches and proclaiming Him as the one to re-establish the reign of King David.

The people sang the phrase from Psalms 118:25, "Blessed is He who cometh in the name of the Lord..."

The significance of Jesus riding on a colt refers to Zechariah 9:9 which reads, "See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey."

The "kingdom" Jesus was sent to establish was not that which was to overthrow Roman rule but the conquering of the human spirit enslaved in sin. Jesus' rule was not that of enslavement, but that of liberation.

He came to empower the believer to live in righteousness, that is, in the relationship of love toward God and our neighbor.SAUCER MAGNOLIA

Magnolia soulangianaAs the term Palm Sunday focuses our attention on the beginning of Holy Week, the term magnolia focuses our attention on the South. Often that Southern imagery is on the Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), the state flower of Mississippi and Louisiana. But the magnolia family has a much broader range.

This family is an ancient genus with over 100 evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs found growing wild in the Himalayas. The saucer magnolia is said to have been introduced to the U.S. over a century ago and several varieties have been hybridized and commercially promoted.

Many yards in this area of Georgia will have one or more varieties of this shrub visually proclaiming the excellence of God's creation.

What makes it so showy is not its size compared to the other magnolias. It is showy because it will be the largest bloom at that moment during spring.

Of course, there will be bloodroots, daffodils, crocuses, and maybe some tulips blooming. But compared to the saucer magnolia, they are all small and earthbound while the large blooming shrub is at eye level and catches our attention at least a thousand feet away.

This small tree rarely exceeds 15 feet in height but may spread 8 feet wide. It is especially adapted to our area because it tolerates clay soil and air pollution.

The blooms are cup-shaped and measure 4 to 6 inches across. The shrub with which I am most familiar bears lavender-pink blooms, though others may be light pink.

Saucer magnolia leaves are deciduous, oval and slightly hairy on the underside. They are a rich shiny green, typical of the magnolia family. Another name for this shrub is Chinese magnolia.

May the beauty in the natural world that we anticipate this spring give you patience and hope to endure any weeks of winter that may remain. As you gather with your neighbors this Sunday, remember to declare, "Blessed is He who cometh in the name of the Lord."

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. This column is included in a two-volume set of books of wildflower columns he has published. To purchase the books, visit the Nature Seen Gallery & Frame Shop, 914 Center St. in Olde Town Conyers.