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Southern Magnolia
Flower and foliage of Magnolia grandiflora (Southern magnolia)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Magnoliids
Order: Magnoliales
Family: Magnoliaceae
Genus: Magnolia
Subgenus: M. subg. Magnolia
Section: M. sect. Magnolia
Species: M. grandiflora
Binomial name
Magnolia grandiflora

Magnolia grandiflora, commonly known as the Southern magnolia or bull bay, is a magnolia native to the southeastern United States, from coastal Virginia south to central Florida, and west to eastern Texas and Arkansas. Reaching 27.5 m (90 ft) in height, it is a large striking evergreen tree with large dark green leaves and large white fragrant flowers. Widely cultivated around the world, over a hundred cultivars have been bred and marketed commercially. The timber is hard and heavy, and has been used commercially to make furniture, pallets, and veneer.



Magnolia grandiflora is a medium to large evergreen tree which may grow 27.5 m (90 ft) tall.[1] It typically has a single stem and a pyramidal shape.[2 ] The leaves are simple and broadly ovate, 12–20 cm (5–8 in) long and 6–12 cm (2–5 in) broad,[2 ] with smooth margins. They are dark green, stiff and leathery, and often scurfy underneath with yellow-brown pubescence. The large, showy, citronella-scented flowers are white, up to 30 cm (12 in) across and fragrant, with 6–12 petals with a waxy texture, emerging from the tips of twigs on mature trees in late spring. Flowering is followed by the rose-coloured fruit, ovoid and 7.5–10 cm (3–4 in) long and 3–5 cm (1.5-2 in) wide.[3]

Exceptionally large trees recorded include a 35 m (114 ft) high specimen from the Chickasawhay District, DeSoto National Forest in Mississippi which measured 17 feet 8 inches in circumference at breast height, from 1961, and a 30 m (99 ft) tall tree from Baton Rouge, Lousiana which reached 18 feet in circumference at breast height.[3]


Magnolia grandiflora was one of the many species first described by Linnaeus in his Systema Naturae. Its specific epithet is derived from the Latin words grandis "big", and flor- "flower".

Common names include bull bay, Southern magnolia, evergreen magnolia,[3] large-flower magnolia or big laurel.[4] The timer is known simply as magnolia.[3]

Distribution and habitat

Magnolia grandiflora is native to the southeastern United States, from coastal North Carolina south to central Florida, and then west to eastern Texas and Arkansas. It is found on the edges of bodies of water and swamps, in association with liquidambar (Liquidambar styraciflua), water oak (Quercus nigra), and black tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica). In more sheltered habitats, it grows as a large tree, but can be a low shrub when found on coastal dunes.[5] It is killed by summer fires, and is missing from habitats that undergo regular burning.[6] In Florida it is found in a number of different ecological areas that are typically shady and have well draining soils, it is also found in hummocks, along ravines, on slopes, and wooded floodplains. [7] Despite preferring sites with increased moisture, it does not tolerate inundation.[3] It grows on sand-hills in maritime forests, where it is found growing with live oaks and saw palmetto.[6] In the eastern United States it has become an escape, and has become naturalized in the tidewater area of Virginia and locally in other areas outside of it historically natural range.[8]


Individual seeds

Magnolia grandiflora can produce seed by 10 years of age, although peak seed production is acheived closer to 25 years of age. Around 50% of seed can germinate, and is spread by birds and mammals.[3] Squirrels, opossums, quail, and turkey are known to eat the seeds.[9]

Cultivation and uses

The plant collector Mark Catesby, the first in North America, brought Magnolia grandiflora to Britain in 1726, where it entered cultivation and overshadowed M. virginiana which had been collected a few years earlier. It had also come to France, the French having collected it in the vicinity of the Mississippi River in Louisiana.[10] It was glowingly described by Philip Miller in his 1731 work The Gardeners' Dictionary.[11] One of the earliest people to cultivate it in Europe was Sir John Colliton of Exeter in Devon; scaffolding and tubs surrounded his tree, where gardeners propagated its branches by layering, the daughter plants initially selling for five guineas each (but later falling to half a guinea).[11]

Tree planted 1807 at Jardin des plantes in Nantes

Southern magnolia is a very popular ornamental tree throughout the southeastern United States, grown for its attractive foliage and flowers. On the east coast of the United States, cold-hardy cultivars have been seen planted up to and even north of the Ohio River, where large tree specimens become increasingly rare and eventually are only found as shrubs before disappearing altogether from the landscape; for example, large mature trees are common in the Cincinnati, Ohio area but begin to taper off in size and occurrence until they are generally absent altogether in Columbus, Ohio. This "subtropical indicator" tree is seen in some gardens as far north as southern Connecticut and southeastern New York; farther north in New England it is extremely difficult to cultivate. Towards the northern limit of its cultivation, it may suffer dieback from very hard freezes, but weathers normal freezes well. On the west coast it is commonplace as far north as Vancouver, British Columbia.

It is recommended for seashore plantings in areas that are windy but have little salt spray.[12 ] The foliage will bronze, blotch, and burn in severe winters at the northern limits of cultivation, especially when grown in full winter sun [13] but most leaves remain until they are replaced by new foliage in the spring. In climates where the ground freezes, winter sun appears to do more damage than the cold itself. In the northern hemisphere the south side of the tree will experience more leaf damage than the north side of the tree. Two extremes are known, with leaves white underneath and with leaves brown underneath. The brown varieties are claimed to be more cold-hardy than the white varieties, but this does not appear to be proven as yet. Once established plants are drought tolerant, and the most drought tolerant of all the Magnolia species. [13]

The leaves are heavy and tend to fall year round from the interior of the crown and form a dense cover on top of the soil surface, [13] they have been used in decorative floral arrangements.[14] The leaves have a waxy coating that makes them resistant to damage from salt and air pollution. [13]

In the United States, Southern magnolia along with sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana) and cucumbertree (Magnolia acuminata), is commercially harvested. Lumber from all three species is simply called magnolia, which is used in the construction of furniture, boxes, pallets, venetian blinds, sashes, doors and used as veneers. Southern magnolia has yellowish-white sapwood and light to dark brown heartwood that is tinted yellow or green. The usually straight grained wood has uniform texture with closely spaced rings. The wood is ranked moderate in heaviness, hardness and stiffness; moderately low in shrinkage, bending and compression strenght; it is ranked modertly high in shock resistance.[15 ] Its use in the southeastern United States has been supplanted by the availability of harder woods.[16]

Symbolic of the American South, Magnolia grandiflora is the state tree of Mississippi,[17] and the state flower of Mississippi and Louisiana.[5]



Over a hundred cultivars have been developed and named in Europe and North America. More and more plants in nurseries are propagated by cuttings, resulting in more consistent form in the various varieties available.[18]

As newer cultivars have been found to be more cold hardy, the cultivated range has continued to spread farther north with some being planted around Chicago. 'Bracken's Brown Beauty', 'Edith Bogue' and '24 Below' are some of the most cold hardy varieties.

  • Magnolia "Angustifolia", developed in France in 1825, has narrow spear-shaped leaves 20 cm (8 in) long by 11 cm (4.4 in) wide, as its name suggests.[18]
  • Magnolia "Exmouth" was developed in the early 18th century by John Colliton in Devon. It is notable for its huge flowers with up to 20 tepals, and vigorous growth. Erect in habit, it is often planted against walls. The leaves are green above and brownish underneath.[19] The flowers are very fragrant and the leaves are narrow and leathery.[20 ]
  • Magnolia "Goliath", was developed by Caledonia Nurseries of Guernsey, and has a bushier habit and globular flowers of up to 30 cm (12 in) diameter. Long-flowering, it has oval leaves which lack the brownish hair underneath.[19]
  • Magnolia "Little Gem", a dwarf cultivar, is grown in warmer climates. Originally developed in 1952 by Steed's Nursery in Candor, North Carolina, it is a slower growing form with a columnar shape which reaches around 4.25 m (14 ft) high and 1.2 m (4 ft) wide. Flowering heavily over an extended period in warmer climate, it bears medium-size cup-shaped flowers, and has elliptic leaves 12.5 cm (5 in) long by 5 cm (2 in) wide.[19]

Other commonly grow cultivars include:

  • Magnolia "Ferruginea", has dark green leaves with rust-brown undersides.[20 ]

External links


  1. ^ Gardiner, p. 144
  2. ^ a b Zion, Robert L. (1995). Trees for architecture and landscape. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold. p. 224. ISBN 978-0-471-28524-3.  
  3. ^ a b c d e f Maisenhelder, Louis C. (1970). "Magnolia". American Woods FS-245. US Dept. of Agriculture. Retrieved 2009-11-05.  
  4. ^ Coladonato, Milo (1991). "Magnolia grandiflora". Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer).: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. Retrieved 12 January 2010.  
  5. ^ a b Gardiner, p. 143
  6. ^ a b Whitney, Eleanor Noss; Rudloe, Anne; Jadaszewski, Erick. Priceless Florida: Natural Ecosystems and Native Species. Pineapple Press (FL). pp. 36. ISBN 978-1-56164-308-0.  
  7. ^ Nelson, Gil; Marvin, Jr Cook. The Trees of Florida: A Reference and Field Guide (Reference and Field Guides (Paperback)). Pineapple Press (FL). pp. 17. ISBN 978-1-56164-055-3.  
  8. ^
  9. ^ Halls, L. K. 1977. Southern magnolia/Magnolia grandiflora L. In Southern fruit-producing woody plants used by wildlife. p. 196-197. USDA Forest Service, General Technical Report SO-16. Southern Forest Experiment Station, New Orleans, LA.
  10. ^ Aitken, Richard (2008). Botanical Riches: Stories of Botanical Exploration. Melbourne, Victoria: Miegunyah Press: State Library of Victoria. pp. 112. ISBN 0522855050.  
  11. ^ a b Gardiner, p. 18
  12. ^ Bush-Brown, Louise Carter; Bush-Brown, James; Irwin, Howard S. (1996). America's garden book. New York: Macmillan USA. pp. 537. ISBN 0-02-860995-6.  
  13. ^ a b c d Sternberg, Guy; Wilson, James; Wilson, Jim (2004). Native trees for North American landscapes: from the Atlantic to the Rockies. Portland: Timber Press. pp. 268. ISBN 978-0-88192-607-1.  
  14. ^ Callaway, p. 13
  15. ^ The Encyclopedia of Wood. Skyhorse Publishing. pp. 1–7. ISBN 978-1-60239-057-7.  
  16. ^ Callaway, p. 14
  17. ^
  18. ^ a b Gardiner, p. 145
  19. ^ a b c Gardiner, p. 147
  20. ^ a b Brickell, Christopher (1989). The American Horticultural Society encyclopedia of garden plants. New York: Macmillan. pp. 51. ISBN 0-02-557920-7.  

Cited texts

  • Callaway, Dorothy Johnson (1994). The world of magnolias. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press. ISBN 0881922366.  
  • Gardiner, Jim (2000). Magnolias: A Gardener's Guide. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press. ISBN 0-88192-446-6.  



Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies

Magnolia grandiflora


Classification System: APG II (down to family level)

Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiospermae
Ordo: Magnoliales
Familia: Magnoliaceae
Subfamilia: Magnolioideae
Genus: Magnolia
Subgenus: M. subg. Magnolia
Section: M. sect. Magnolia
Species: Magnolia grandiflora


Magnolia grandiflora L.


  • Syst. nat. ed. 10, 2:1082. 1759
  • USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN) [Online Database]. [1]

Vernacular names

Galego: Magnolio común
Русский: Магнолия крупноцветковая
中文: 荷花玉蘭
Wikimedia Commons For more multimedia, look at Magnolia grandiflora on Wikimedia Commons.


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