Sweetbay Magnolia

Basic Information
Tree ID: 
Genus and species: 
This sweet-smelling beauty is originally native to the eastern Gulf Coast and lowlands of New Jersey. She is a popular ornamental tree and adds class to any horicultural landscape with her large, attractive foliage. The sweetbay magnolia or "mags" or "mag-girl" was also the first magnolia to be cultivated in England; although, she was overshadowed by the larger, evergreen Southern magnolia there :( but mag-girl will always have a home in America: on Whitney Avenue and in our hearts.
Adam D'Sa, Celina Chiodo, and Chase Renfroe
Collected Data
Tree shape: 
columnar, vase
Date of tree entry: 
4.60 m
Diameter at breast height: 
0.15 m

There are too many multiple trunks to accurately measure the DBH, so this is just an estimate
Bark is smooth and gray, with the inner bark lightly scented (with a scent reminiscent of the bay laurel spice). The bark is often mottled as shown in the photo here; it is smooth and green on young trees but becomes silvery gray as the tree matures (mag-girl is going gray like a grandma!). The wood is of little commercial value.
Twigs & branches
The twigs show alternate leaf arrangements and conspicuous terminal buds. The sweetbay magnolia typically grows as a multi-stemmed specimen but can be found with a single trunk. First-year stems are green with slightly raised leaf scars, turning from greenish-brown to gray in the second year. The tree's terminal floral or vegetative buds are much larger than the laterals, all of which are slightly pubescent, but not nearly as large or prominent as saucer, star, or hybrid magnolias. The stems are branched sympodially (several stems arise from the same point on a young branch, resembling fingers originating from an upturned hand).
Simple leaves 3–5" in length that are dark green and often lustrous on top with a silvery, frosted-looking underside. The leaves are medium to dark green and shiny above, and glaucous silvery-green beneath. The trees vary from semi-evergreen to slowly deciduous. While the fall color remains generally green, individual leaves change to tan throughout late Autumn and Winter when they fall. Be warned that high pH soils may render the foliage chlorotic (yellow-green)! This can be remedied by addition of peat moss to the site soil at transplanting, and annual applications of a nutirent-dense fertilizer.
Reproductive Structures
Produces creamy white flowers 2–3" in diameter that carry a light lemon scent. The flowers are best in full sun; they appear in the late spring and flutter delicately in the wind. The sweetbay magnolia flowers sparsely over a long period and the petals of its flowers never fully reflex, but remain slightly upright at full expansion.
The sweetbay magnolia produces clusters of red fruit. The fruit is a fused aggregate of follicles, 3-5 cm long, pinkish-red when mature, with the follicles splitting open to release the 1 cm long seeds which are covered in a thin red coat to attract birds.
  • Sweetbay magnolia in the winter
  • Evergreen Sweetbay magnolia
  • Sweetbay Magnolia in spring
Media and Arts
Office presentation icon Magnolias in the Arts - Chiodo4.4 MB