“Nikko” means “sunny splendor,” and its beauties are celebrated in poetry and art all over Japan. Mountains for a great part of the year clothed or patched with snow; ravines and passes scarcely explored; a gorgeousness of azaleas and magnolias; and a luxuriousness of vegetation perhaps unequaled in Japan are only a few of the attractions that surround the shrines of the two greatest shoguns.
|From “Unbeaten Tracks in Japan”
by Isabella Bird (1831-1904) (Virago Press)
Magnolias were among the earliest flowering plants to appear on Earth, hundreds of millions of years ago. When great ice sheets covered much of the Northern Hemisphere, more than 2 million years ago, magnolias survived in the warmer forests of Asia and America. Their scent still attracts beetles and bees that crash-land on the large, simple flowers and tumble into the inner circle of stamens. The species pictured is the fragrant lily-flowered magnolia ( M. liliiflora ), which is purple on the outside and pale pink on the inside. A native of China, this species was probably introduced to Japan in the seventh century, along with the white flowering haku-mokuren ( M. denudata ). Later, in 1790, a British plant collector, the Duke of Portland, brought the purple magnolias to Europe.
By Linda Inoki