Southern (or Bull Bay) Magnolia

Basic Information
Tree ID: 
Genus and species: 
Hello! We're glad you've come to meet a good friend of ours, Magnolia grandifloria, "the Southern Magnolia", or as we have affectionately named her, Maggie Magnolia. Of course "her" is a misnomer since Maggie has perfect flowers, but read our section on reporductive structures for more about that. While most famous for growing in the southern portion of the United States, Magnolia grandiflora can actually grow as far north as Maine and Washington. It has broad leaves and is an evergreen, meaning it does not lose its leaves in winter. For this reason, and for its beautiful flowers, it is used as an ornamental tree. Magnolia grandiflora is the offical state tree of Mississippi and its flowers are the official state flower of Louisiana. Maggie is the (un-)official pride and joy of the Marsh Botanical Gardens. They are large and can grow to about 60-80 ft tall, but this depends on the habitat and some stay fairly small. Other names you may have heard this tree called by are Bull Bay, Evergreen magnolia, or Great Laurel magnolia. Look for creamy white flowers with a rich fragrance, broad, leathery leaves that are dark green on top and brown on bottom, and an overall oval or pyramidal shape. Enjoy your visit with Maggie!
Alexandra Lombardo and Aaron Long
Collected Data
Tree shape: 
Date of tree entry: 
6.83 m
Diameter at breast height: 
0.20 m

The bark of Magnolia grandiflora can be anywhere from brown to gray, and is generally quite thin. When young, as Maggie Magnolia was during her christening (2018), the bark is smooth or with lenticels, which are small, raised pores allowing gas exchange between the tree and the atmosphere. When old, the bark will develop scales or close plates.
Twigs & branches
Magnolia grandiflora has stout twigs and branches. The twigs have a fuzz, officially known as tomentum, which can be a white to rusty red color. The terminal bud is of the same color and is fairly long, about one inch.
The Magnolia grandiflora leaves are a bright monochrome green in the shape of a long oval. They are thick and about 5-8 inches long. The top sides are waxy, while the underneath are a lighter color with a bit of fuzz. The veination is pinnate, meaning there is one main vein with smaller ones branching off, rather than parallel or web-like veins.
Reproductive Structures
The Magnolia grandiflora flower is well-known for its beauty and fragrance. The 6 to 8 inch long wide flowers have large white petals, and is hermaphrodite/monoecious (having both male and female reproductive parts on the same plant). The prime blooming period is late spring.
The Magnolia grandiflora fruit is an aggregate of follicles 3-5 inches long. The seeds of each follice are bright red and 1/2 inch long each. The fruit matures in the fall.
  • Early Spring
  • Late Winter
Magnolia grandiflora is native to the southeastern United States, form southeast Virginia to central Florida and then across to East Texas and Oklahoma. It is often found on the edge of swamps or large bodies of water next to friends such as sweetgum water oak, and black tupelo. It prefers moist soil but cannot tolerate inundation. Magnolia grandiflora can grow to be a large tree in sheltered habitats or remain a small shrub in less favorable conditions. It is a hardy tree and can grow in environments ranging from the cold of Maine and Washington to sand hills in maritime forests and even in urban areas, although it tends to remain smaller in these conditions.
Origin, history, and uses: 

Maggie Magnolia actually has a very famous namesake in the world of botany. Pierre Magnol, the director of the botanical garden at Montpellier France, published a natural classification of families of plants based on shared features, a precursor to how plants are classified today. The beauty of the southern magnolia caused it to be transplanted to Europe in his time, and it has been prized in England and France in addition tot he United States. 

The wood of Magnolia grandiflora is a creamy color and fairly hard, and it is used in wood working to make things like furniture, boxes, and doors. It has also been used for medicinal purposes, especially in Mexican and Chinese culture, to treat a range of conditions like high blood pressure, abdominal discomfort, and infertility. In modern times, an extract of Magnolia grandiflora is being studied for use to treat epilepsy. It is also considered an ornamental tree, especially in the warmer climates where it flourishes best. We certainly hope you enjoy looking at Maggie today. 

Magnolia grandiflora is an evergreen, meaning its leaves are present year round. Maggie's phenology is not the most varied. In late spring her flowers bloom and in the fall her fruit matures.
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