Monday, June 5, 2017
The "Sweetbay Magnolia" - Magnolia virginiana
The "Sweetbay Magnolia" - Magnolia virginiana - is native to the Eastern/Atlantic and Gulf Coast regions of the United States, with it's highest "natural" numbers occurring in the South Eastern States of Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. It grows naturally most commonly in poorly drained or highly acidic soils that are often subject to flooding. This tree has a vase shaped growth habit and generally reaches 10-20 feet tall at maturity. It is considered a medium to fast grower, gaining an average of 12-24 inches per year when young.
Image Citation: Richard Webb, www.Bugwood.org
Though it is not as showy as it's counterparts (the more commonly planted ornamental Magnolia's) it offers great interest from May - Late June when it is in bloom. After the initial bloom, some flowers will often continue to sporadically appear late into the summer season, disappearing before the first frost. The blooms are a creamy white in color, highly fragrant and 2-3 inches in diameter. The scent of the flowers is often compared to a light lemon or citrus scent. When the flowers disappear the "fruit" appears in the form of red-orange cones often growing in clusters. This fruit is eaten by a wide variety of animals including Squirrels, Mice, Turkey, Quail and many Songbirds.
Image Citation: Charles T. Bryson, USDA Agricultural Research Service, www.Bugwood.org
The leaves are simple oval shape with a slight point at each end (lanceolate). They are a glossy dark green in color with a lighter silvery underside. In some areas of the United States, the leaves are retained throughout the year, because of this it is considered to be semi-evergreen.
Image Citation: Franklin Bonner, USFS (ret.), www.Bugwood.org
The Sweetbay Magnolia is hardy in USDA zones 5-9. Some cultivars found at local nurseries may include the Southern (australis), Henry Hicks, and Moonglow.