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Sweet-bay Magnolia virginiana
Copyright by: Roger L. Hammer
General Landscape Uses:
An attractive accent shrub or small tree in wet areas.
Ecological Restoration Notes: A common element of wetland thickets and swamp margins.
Description: Small to medium tree or large shrub with a narrow, often irregularly rounded crown composed of small erect to spreading branches. Trunks tall, straight, 3-12 inches in diameter and sometimes more. Bark smooth, pale brown, often covered with numerous lichens. Leaves smooth, shiny dark green above, silvery beneath, 4-6 inches long, aromatic when crushed.
Dimensions: Typically 10-30 feet in height in South Florida; to 91 feet in Florida. Usually taller than broad.
Growth Rate: Moderate.
Eastern and southeastern United States west to Arkansas and Texas and south to Miami-Dade County and the Monroe County mainland. For a digitized image of Elbert Little's Florida range map, visit the Exploring Florida website.
Soils: Wet, poorly-drained organic soils, with humusy top layer, often with acid pH.
Nutritional Requirements: High; requires rich organic soils for optimal growth.
Salt Water Tolerance: Low; does not tolerate flooding by salt or brackish water.
Salt Wind Tolerance: Low; salt wind may burn the leaves.
Drought Tolerance: Low; requires moist to wet soils and is intolerant of long periods of drought.
Light Requirements: Full sun to light shade.
Flower Color: White with a red center, becoming creamy with age.
Flower Characteristics: Very showy, 2-3" indiameter. Fragrant.
Flowering Season: Spring-summer.
Fruit: Greenish berry encased in a egg-shaped to almost globe-shaped conelike structure to 2" long and 1/2" broad. The seeds are scarlet, about 1/4" long, showy. Fall.
Wildlife and Ecology: Provides significant food and cover for wildlife. Larval host plant for Eastern tiger swallowtail (Pterourous glaucus) and palamedes (Papilio palamedes) butterflies. Attracts beetle and moth pollinators. Turkey, quail and other seed eating birds and small mammals eat the seeds.
Horticultural Notes: Can be grown from seed. Plant at once when ripe or cold stratified to 40 degrees F and plant in spring.
References: Nelson 2003, Schaefer & Tanner 1997
Comments: A beautiful small tree for wet spots in the garden. Most botanists would consider this to be the most primitive tree native to South Florida. It has been cultivated in the United States since as early as 1938.