Take a moment to listen to my reading aloud of William Bartram’s Words, from William Bartram’s Travels.
The stately magnolias that William Bartram so loved still grow abundantly in the Southeast. I cannot count the times that William Bartram sheltered beneath a magnolia tree on his Travels throughout the Southeast. He mentions camping beneath them so many times in his book, William Bartram’s Travels.
The many homes of the Magnolia….
The city of Houston, Texas is called Magnolia City for the magnolia’s growing along Buffalo Bayou, and Mississippi is called the Magnolia State for its plentiful magnolias. They grow here in Georgia too. The blossoms I photographed graced a magnolia growing on North Campus of The University of Georgia, which I believe to be at least 100 years old. The ones that William found to be the most magnificent grew along the San Juan, now called the St. John’s River in Florida.
William Bartram aka Puc-puggy.
I think that the symbolic meaning of the magnolia tree fits with William Bartram’s love of the tree: Love for nature. The Native Americans dubbed William Bartram Puc-puggy, which meant Flower Seeker. His love of nature communicated itself across cultural and linguistic divides.
Beetles as pollinators….
The Magnolia Flower is ancient. Fossilized remains of magnolia-like plants date back 20 million years, and its precursors date to 95 million years ago. A flowering plant before the master pollinators, bees, arrived on the scene, the Magnolia Flower developed to attract beetles as pollinators. This explains the thick texture of the flower petals William Bartram observed. Beetles would bruise and destroy the delicate petals of the rose William Bartram compares the Magnolia to.
Carrier of the Golden Strand…
To get a greater sense of the symbolism of a Magnolia tree, I looked up the symbolic meaning of beetles. Beetles “carry the Golden Strand that leads to the Center of the Universe.” In addition, they represent spiritual enlightenment. This fits, for William Bartram certainly found his spirit in his love for nature, writing transcendent passages at times, such as about nature’s storm compared to the stormy seas of human passions, and often expressing his awe at the grandeur of the nature he experiences in his Travels.
Why are we here?
In addition, the golden stigmas of the Magnolia Blossoms visually relate to the Golden Strand carried by the Beetles, leading to the center of the Universe, or more literally, to the reproduction of the Magnolia tree, the reproduction of life, which could be considered the heart of why we are all here. To reproduce, to survive, to create anew.*Opening Stanza from “The Slacks” by Trip Shakespeare.