A North Carolina State University professor of horticulture, Thomas G. Ranney, has patented a new type of magnolia tree named NCMX1. This tree has a strong, straight central trunk with branches that curve upward, lending an “excellent pyramidal form.” Unlike other magnolias, this one’s flowers are fuchsia in bud form opening to lavender-pink, and they bloom about a month later than other magnolias, making them less susceptible to the late-season frosts typical of the mountain region. The flowers are very fragrant, and their petals can reach 12” in diameter. Working out of the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center in Mills River, Ranney breeds plants with a focus upon developing new bioenergy crops and enhancing crop quality. He began his career in search of more pest-resistant and otherwise resilient plants. From there, he developed a desire to integrate multiple desirable traits into crops. Working for NCSU for over 20 years, Ranney has cultivated about 30 new plants, including a seedless miscanthus; the Carolina Sweetheart redbud that sports green, white, purple, and, for a while, hot-pink foliage, not flowers; and the Javelin pear, a slender tree with purple foliage. He enjoys breeding plants, something he describes as “science coupled with serendipity,” because it requires a knowledge of horticulture, genetics, plant pathology, and ecology, among other subjects.