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Gordonia lasianthus

Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
gor-DOH-nee-ah lah-see-AHN-thus
Description

Loblolly Bay is an evergreen tree that is native to SE USA and is found in the coastal plains of NC in moist but not wet areas. These areas include pocosins, bayheads, acidic, organic-rich swamp forests, wet pine savannas, and bay forests. In summer it has spectacular white Camellia-like flowers that are fragrant and can continue through frost. Loblolly Bay reaches a height of 35 to 60 feet with a columnar or pyramidal, very open growth habit. Although evergreen, several individual leaves at a time will turn a brilliant scarlet color in the fall. 

It can be difficult to grow in cultivation and is best purchased in a pot rather than digging from the wild but can still be finicky. Use this plant in wet but well-drained areas in sun to partial sun conditions. Or just enjoy it in its native habitat. Symmetric, narrow conical shape. Depending on soil conditions, may take a shrubby form or grow to a sizeable tree. Hybrid with Franklinia (not a NC native) is Gordlinia grandiflora {Franklinia x Gordonia}; cv 'Sweet Tea'

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems: No major problems. It can be hard to find commercially.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • ‘Variegata’
    Variegated leaves
Tags:
#native shrub#Coastal FACW#long bloom time#wildlife#food source nectar#sun#wet soils tolerant#early summer flowers#flower#sunshine#white#summer flowers#part sun#part shade#Piedmont Mountains FACW#food source pollen#fragrant flowers#food source#full sun#showy#highly beneficial coastal plants#contorted trunk#full sun flowers#coastal plant#fragrant#cover plant#bees#food source fall#mid-summer flowers#well-drained soil#NC native#flowering#broadleaf evergreen#evergreen#evergreen tree#hummingbirds#fall color red#tree#fruits#deer browsing plant#food source herbage#long-lasting flowers#flowering shrub#deer resistant#fall color#fall fruits#late summer flowers#cover#coastal#flowering tree#white flowers#sandy soils tolerant#native tree#coastal areas#partial sun#audubon#native garden#partial shade#wildlife plant#showy flowers#moist soil#full sunlight#attractive foliage#summer interest#shrub#fall interest
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • ‘Variegata’
    Variegated leaves
Tags:
#native shrub#Coastal FACW#long bloom time#wildlife#food source nectar#sun#wet soils tolerant#early summer flowers#flower#sunshine#white#summer flowers#part sun#part shade#Piedmont Mountains FACW#food source pollen#fragrant flowers#food source#full sun#showy#highly beneficial coastal plants#contorted trunk#full sun flowers#coastal plant#fragrant#cover plant#bees#food source fall#mid-summer flowers#well-drained soil#NC native#flowering#broadleaf evergreen#evergreen#evergreen tree#hummingbirds#fall color red#tree#fruits#deer browsing plant#food source herbage#long-lasting flowers#flowering shrub#deer resistant#fall color#fall fruits#late summer flowers#cover#coastal#flowering tree#white flowers#sandy soils tolerant#native tree#coastal areas#partial sun#audubon#native garden#partial shade#wildlife plant#showy flowers#moist soil#full sunlight#attractive foliage#summer interest#shrub#fall interest
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Gordonia
    Species:
    lasianthus
    Family:
    Theaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    The bark was once used for tanning leather
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Southeastern United States
    Distribution:
    AL , FL , GA , MS , NC , SC
    Fire Risk Rating:
    high flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    The loblolly bay provides winter and extreme weather coverage for wildlife.  White-tailed deer browse the foliage. Bees, hummingbirds, and other pollinating insects enjoy the nectar from the flowers.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Attracts Pollinators
    Fragrance
    Wildlife Food Source
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Particularly resistant to damage by deer.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 30 ft. 0 in. - 75 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 10 ft. 0 in. - 15 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Columnar
    Open
    Pyramidal
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasional Flooding
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    12-24 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    7a, 7b, 8b, 8a, 9a, 9b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The fruit is a hard, woody, five-valved capsule about 0.6 inches long with each valve containing four to eight flat, winged seeds. In North Carolina, the fruits are available from September to October.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Head
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Long Bloom Season
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Cup
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    The 2-3 inch white fragrant flower has 5 waxy petals surrounding many golden stamens. They occur singly in the leaf axils near the ends of branches in the summer. The flowers are usually found high up on the tree, not abundant and bloom sporadically. In North Carolina, the flowers are available from July to September.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leathery
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Long-lasting
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Oblanceolate
    Oblong
    Leaf Margin:
    Doubly Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Oblong dark green, glossy, leathery leaves with a toothed margin and a pale green underside. They are 3-6 inches long by 1-2 inches wide. A few may turn bright red in fall.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Ridges
    Bark Description:
    The bark is light-colored from cream to carmine on young trees. Matures to medium grey to a red-brown coloration with flat-topped ridges and separated by narrow furrows.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    Green and brown stems
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Coastal
    Pond
    Riparian
    Landscape Theme:
    Native Garden
    Rain Garden
    Water Garden
    Design Feature:
    Flowering Tree
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Hummingbirds
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Wet Soil