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Magnolia virginiana

Previously known as:

  • Magnolia virginiana var. australis
Phonetic Spelling
mag-NO-lee-ah ver-jin-ee-AY-nah
Description

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, open 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 100' tall. It is often multi-stemmed and straggling. It has smooth bark, narrow, rounded crown, and shallow roots. It tolerates wet and swampy sites and has aromatic spicy leaves and twigs and extremely fragrant flowers. It requires acidic soils and has no serious pest or disease problems. Winter damage occurs in zone 6 and the upper part of zone 5.

An excellent specimen tree for lawns or tall multi-stemmed shrub for shrub borders. This plant is not as popular as southern magnolia due to its smaller flowers. It blooms sporadically over the tree during summer months. It is often planted in parks. Good for landscaping as it is a deer-resistant plant. 

Dwarf plants occur with smaller growth forms and leaves and can be used in foundation plantings, near patios or on the periphery of woodland areas. This plant is moderately salt tolerant.

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

Quick ID Hints:

  • Evergreen, laurel-like leaves silvery below
  • White summer magnolia flowers 
See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Henry Hicks'
    Grows 25 feet
  • 'Jim Wilson'
    Cold hardiness, slightly larger flowers
  • 'Moonglow'
  • ‘Tensaw’
    Dwarf and cold tolerant
'Henry Hicks', 'Jim Wilson', 'Moonglow', ‘Tensaw’
Tags:
#fragrant#evergreen#water garden#rain garden#fragrant flowers#foliage#wildlife plant#showy#native tree#fragrant leaves#salt tolerant#cover plant#boggy#flowering tree#playground#seeds#wet sites#small mammals#food source#cpp#low flammability#NC native#fragrant stems#deer resistant#ponds#children's garden#native garden#fire resistant#edible fruits#pollinator plant#Braham Arboretum#fantz#larval host plant#cover#food source fall#patio planting#bird friendly#butterfly friendly#pollinator garden#eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly#spicebush swallowtail butterfly
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Henry Hicks'
    Grows 25 feet
  • 'Jim Wilson'
    Cold hardiness, slightly larger flowers
  • 'Moonglow'
  • ‘Tensaw’
    Dwarf and cold tolerant
'Henry Hicks', 'Jim Wilson', 'Moonglow', ‘Tensaw’
Tags:
#fragrant#evergreen#water garden#rain garden#fragrant flowers#foliage#wildlife plant#showy#native tree#fragrant leaves#salt tolerant#cover plant#boggy#flowering tree#playground#seeds#wet sites#small mammals#food source#cpp#low flammability#NC native#fragrant stems#deer resistant#ponds#children's garden#native garden#fire resistant#edible fruits#pollinator plant#Braham Arboretum#fantz#larval host plant#cover#food source fall#patio planting#bird friendly#butterfly friendly#pollinator garden#eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly#spicebush swallowtail butterfly
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Magnolia
    Species:
    virginiana
    Family:
    Magnoliaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Eastern United States
    Fire Risk Rating:
    low flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    Provides winter and extreme weather cover. This is a larval host plant for Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus) which has two broods from April-October and Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilo glaucus) which has three flights from February-November in the deep south and March-September in the north. The adult Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies feed on milkweed, joe pye weed, wild cherry, and lilac.) and Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) glaucus) which has three flights from February-November in the deep south and March-September in the north. Foliage and twigs are eaten by white-tailed deer in winter. Seeds are eaten by birds and small mammals. It is a favorite tree of the sap suckers.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Edible fruit
    Fragrance
    Wildlife Food Source
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Resistant to fire in landscape
    Dimensions:
    Height: 15 ft. 0 in. - 100 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 10 ft. 0 in. - 20 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Shrub
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Semi-evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Columnar
    Conical
    Multi-stemmed
    Open
    Rounded
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Low
    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:
    High Organic Matter
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    12-24 feet
    24-60 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5a, 5b, 6b, 6a, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Red/Burgundy
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Aggregate
    Follicle
    Fruit Length:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    Up to 2 inches long cone-like aggregate of follicles that are large and have many segments. They have bright red seeds that mature in fall and can be showy. The seeds dangle from the fruits by a thread and are relished by birds.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Cream/Tan
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Head
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Cup
    Flower Petals:
    7 - 20 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    2-3 inch cup-shaped, axillary, scattered, sweetly fragrant (lemony), 9-12 petaled, creamy white, waxy flowers adorn the Sweet bay magnolia in mid-spring and sometimes continue sporadically throughout the summer.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Semi-evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Blue
    Gray/Silver
    Green
    White
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Lanceolate
    Oblong
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Leaves are alternate, laurel-like, elliptic to oblong-lanceolate, shiny, 3"-5" long and 1"-2" inches wide, dark green above and silvery glaucous underneath. Leaves are acute, broad cuneate, and entire. The foliage is evergreen to semi-evergreen in the South.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Brown
    Light Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Smooth
    Bark Description:
    Bark is a smooth brownish gray.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    Yes
    Stem Description:
    New stems have green terminal buds
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Coastal
    Patio
    Recreational Play Area
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Children's Garden
    Edible Garden
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Rain Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Flowering Tree
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Hummingbirds
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Fire
    Salt
    Wet Soil