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Magnolia virginiana

Common Name(s):
Swamp magnolia, Sweet bay, Sweetbay magnolia
'Henry Hicks', 'Moonglow', 'Jim Wilson'
Native Plants, Shrubs, Trees

Magnolia virginiana, commonly called sweet bay magnolia, is native to the coastal areas southeastern United States north along the Atlantic coast to New York. In the northern part of its cultivated growing range, it typically grows as either a 15-20' tall tree with a spreading, rounded crown or as a shorter, suckering, open, multi-stemmed shrub. In the deep South, it is apt to be more tree-like, sometimes growing to 60' tall.  It has smooth bark, narrow, rounded crown, and shallow roots.  It is multistemmed, with an upright spreading habit.  It tolerates wet sites and has aromatic spicy leaves and twigs and extremely fragrant flowers. 

An excellent specimen tree for lawns or tall multi-stemmed shrub for shrub borders. Used in foundation plantings, near patios or on the periphery of woodland areas. It is often planted in parks.

This plant is moderately salt tolerant.

Regions:  Piedmont, Coastal Plains

Seasons of Interest: 

     Bloom:  Spring, Summer      Fruit/Seed/Nut: Fall, cones

Wildlife Value:  Provides winter and extreme weather cover.  Host plant for the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.  Foliage and twigs are eaten by white-tailed deer in winter but it is moderately deer resistant.  Seeds are eaten by birds and small mammals.

 Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems:  Susceptible to chlorosis in alkaline soils.

10-60 ft.
The Sweet bay magnolia has oblong-lanceolate shiny 3-5 in. dark green foliage which is blue-white to silvery underneath. The foliage is evergreen to semi-evergreen in the South.
Cup-shaped, sweetly fragrant (lemony), 9-12 petaled, creamy white, waxy flowers (2-3" diameter) adorn the Sweet bay magnolia in mid-spring and sometimes continue sporadically throughout the summer. The flowers are followed by cone-like fruits with bright red seeds that mature in fall and can be showy.
Evergreen to semi-evergreen
This tree prefers acidic, medium to wet soils in full sun to part shade. It grows best in moist, rich, organic soils, but, unlike most other magnolias, tolerates wet, boggy soils like near streams or ponds. This species has been known to tolerate flooded conditions for extended periods of time. It appreciates a protected location in USDA Zone 5 where it is not reliably winter hardy.
Conical narrow, rounded crown; multi-trunked; right spreading habit
Sun to partial shade; moist soil
3 in. creamy white flowers with lemon scent from late spring to late summer; red seeds
10-20 ft.
Growth Rate:
Moderate to rapid
flowering tree, wet sites, fragrant twigs, deer resistant, fragrant, host, salt tolerant, butterflies, showy, birds, wildlife, evergreen, cpp, fragrant leaves, water garden, boggy, rain garden, fragrant flowers, wet, pond, wet soil, foliage

NCCES plant id: 511

Magnolia virginiana Magnolia virginiana
Mary Keim, CC BY-NC-SA - 2.0
Magnolia virginiana Flower
Mary Keim, CC BY-NC-SA - 2.0
Magnolia virginiana Growth habit
Chris Kreussling, CC BY-NC-ND - 2.0
Magnolia virginiana v australis 'Henry Hicks' M. virginiana 'Henry Hicks' cultivar
Megan Hansen, CC-BY-SA-2.0
Magnolia virginiana 'Moonglow' Magnolia virginiana 'Moonglow' bloom
Rachelgreenbelt, CC-BY-SA-2.0