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Magnolia grandiflora is often confused with:
Magnolia virginiana Magnolia virginiana
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Pinus taeda Growing in a stand
Prunus caroliniana Carolina Cherry Laurel Flowers
Magnolia virginiana Magnolia virginiana

Magnolia grandiflora

Previously known as:

  • Magnolia angustifolia
  • Magnolia elliptica
  • Magnolia foetida
Phonetic Spelling
mag-NO-lee-ah gran-dih-FLOR-ah
Description

Magnolia grandiflora, or Southern Magnolia, is a large, broadleaf evergreen, medium-sized tree that is noted for its attractive dark green leaves and its large, extremely fragrant flowers. It is the only evergreen magnolia and typically grows to 60 to 80 feet tall with a pyramidal to rounded crown, a spread of 20 to 40 feet wide, and a trunk diameter of 3 feet. Magnolias are one of the oldest known tree species in the world (based on data from USNA). This is a magnificent tree for planting as a specimen in the South in large areas, but can also be planted in small residential or commercial sites. It needs plenty of space to grow. Lower branches can be pruned out to appear more tree-like. Nothing will grow underneath the tree, and it requires a mulch to prevent erosion problems. Giant flowers are borne in the summer months and are extremely ornamental. Fruits are used as dried centerpieces intermixed with gymnosperm branches. It prefers rich soil with partial shade. It tolerates high moisture levels, but is intolerant to overly wet or swampy soils and prolonged flooding. It is native to the bottomlands and moist wooded areas in the central and southeastern coastal plains from North Carolina to Florida and Texas. Its presence in natural stands is evidence of better drained alluvial terraces.

It is regarded as pest and disease free and is widely planted as an ornamental or landscape tree across the southeast. Its dense shade and shallow roots make it difficult to grow anything underneath. It is shade tolerant and, in nature, is usually an understory tree. However, when grown as an ornamental, it maintains heavily leaved limbs almost to the ground.

Fire Risk: This plant has a medium flammability rating. 

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems:   The leaves are difficult to manage, dropping in both fall and spring. Leaves can be chopped with a rotary mower and blown back under the branches to recycle nutrients. A frequent escapee from cultivation.

Quick ID Hints:

  • Stiff, leathery, laurel-like leaves
  • Giant white flowers appear in the summer
  • Leaves are rusty-brown and tomentose below
Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Hydrangeas in the Garden
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Alta', 'Blanchard', 'Brackens Brown Beauty', 'Claudia Wannamaker', 'Edith Bogue', 'Greenback', 'Kay Parris', 'Little Gem', 'Miss Chloe', 'Teddy Bear'
Tags:
#fragrant#evergreen#shade tree#fragrant flowers#wildlife plant#showy#native tree#cut flowers#salt tolerant#cover plant#playground#seeds#wet sites#small mammals#food source#cpp#fire#medium flammability#NC native#deer resistant#children's garden#pollinator plant#Braham Arboretum#fantz#cover#food source fall#food source herbage#coastal FAC#bird friendly#mammals#food source soft mast fruit#Piedmont Mountains FACU#cover plant winter#audubon
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Alta', 'Blanchard', 'Brackens Brown Beauty', 'Claudia Wannamaker', 'Edith Bogue', 'Greenback', 'Kay Parris', 'Little Gem', 'Miss Chloe', 'Teddy Bear'
Tags:
#fragrant#evergreen#shade tree#fragrant flowers#wildlife plant#showy#native tree#cut flowers#salt tolerant#cover plant#playground#seeds#wet sites#small mammals#food source#cpp#fire#medium flammability#NC native#deer resistant#children's garden#pollinator plant#Braham Arboretum#fantz#cover#food source fall#food source herbage#coastal FAC#bird friendly#mammals#food source soft mast fruit#Piedmont Mountains FACU#cover plant winter#audubon
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Magnolia
    Species:
    grandiflora
    Family:
    Magnoliaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    It was traditionally used medicinally to treat circulatory system disorders. The leaves, fruits, bark and wood yield variety of extracts with potential applications of pharmaceuticals. The wood is light, soft, and tan-colored with indistinct grain. It is used commercially for veneer, furniture parts, paper pulp, and flake and chip boards.
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Southeastern United States
    Distribution:
    Maryland south west to Texas southeast to Florida.
    Fire Risk Rating:
    medium flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    It provides winter and severe weather cover.  Its seeds are eaten by birds and small mammals.
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Edible fruit
    Fragrance
    Shade
    Wildlife Food Source
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    The Southern magnolia is moderately resistant to deer damage, and is highly salt tolerant.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 60 ft. 0 in. - 80 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 30 ft. 0 in. - 50 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Conical
    Dense
    Pyramidal
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Texture:
    Coarse
  • 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
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    24-60 feet
    more than 60 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8b, 8a, 9a, 9b, 10b, 10a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Red/Burgundy
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Aggregate
    Follicle
    Fruit Description:
    The flowers give way to spherical cone-like fruiting clusters that are an aggregate of follicles (to 3-5” long) and mature from September to October, releasing individual rose-red coated seeds suspended on slender red threads at maturity. Fruits are rusty-tomentose.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Cream/Tan
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Solitary
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Good Cut
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Saucer
    Flower Petals:
    6 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    > 6 inches
    Flower Description:
    The Southern Magnolia has fragrant creamy white flowers (8 to 12 inches in diameter) that are usually composed of six to twelve petals. The flowers bloom in late spring, with sparse continued flowering throughout the summer. Flowers are solitary, axillary, scattered on the plant, and have a perianth (6 inches long) of 9-15 members. Flowers bloom from May to June.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The Southern Magnolia has 5-10 alternate, simple, persistent, leathery evergreen ovate to elliptic leaves (5 to 10 inches long). They are glossy dark green above and variable pale green to gray-brown beneath. It has felt-like fuzz and rusty-brown tomentose on back of its leaves. Leaves are stiffly coriaceous, acute, cuneate, and entire.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Dark Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Patchy
    Smooth
    Bark Description:
    The bark is brown to grey and smooth when young. As the tree ages, close plates or scales develop.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    Branches are borne to ground level and are spreading.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Coastal
    Recreational Play Area
    Landscape Theme:
    Children's Garden
    Edible Garden
    Garden for the Blind
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Flowering Tree
    Shade Tree
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Diseases
    Insect Pests
    Salt
    Urban Conditions
    Wet Soil