Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Tuesday's Trees- Magnolia grandiflora
What can one said about a Magnolia? It is certainly a grand tree in the southern landscape….it is almost a requirement! The Magnolia is a native tree to the southern region of the eastern United States. The hardiness of this grand tree is 7- 10a. Some reports indicate there are newer cultivars that are hardy to zone 5. This tree is used in various ways in the landscape. It is an evergreen tree that gets quite large in its full mature state. Throughout the south is can be seen as a street tree, lining a grand boulevard, or as a specimen tree, in its full glory, or limbed up a bit it is a wonderful shade tree.
The leaves are large, leathery and most cultivars have the brown fuzz on the underside. The leaves are simple, smooth, pinnate, and quite large- 8- 12 inches long by 4- 8 inches wide. While it is an evergreen tree, these huge leaves do fall as new growth appears. Some consider this the downside of having a Magnolia—raking or cleaning up this big leaves.
The bark is most unusual…at certain stages it reminds me of an elephant's leg….smooth with very wrinkly knees. The Duke web page has a nice display of photos of the bark at various stages of growth. Some of the photos I have are from my Fort Monroe visit and these are very mature trees. According to my favorite source of information, Forestry Service Silvics Manual, these trees can live well over 100 years. They are moderately fast growing trees. Mature specimen reach heights of 125 feet tall and they have quite a spread. Their growth habit is pyramidal and little pruning is needed for this tree to have good strong growth. The growing conditions are varied, growing in sun to part shade. The soil conditions range from clay to loam to sand and it is salt and drought tolerant. There are many cultivars available, 'Little Gem' and 'Teddy Bear' are some of the smaller ones..reaching 30 feet in height at maturity. 'Brackens Brown Beauty' is a more compact tree, slightly smaller leaves. Height is larger than 'Little Gem' but smaller than the species tree.
Flower and fruit….what can one say about this beautiful, fragrant, large white flower? It is amazing. One would think I had a great photo of said bloom…ha! (Thought I did) I do have a photo of the most amazing Magnolia Macrophylla, one of the ancient plants. There is a lovely specimen in the Greensprings Garden in Alexandria Virginia.
The Magnolia bloom is quite remarkable, a showplace unto itself. The fruit pod is large and quite fuzzy. As the seeds ripen they emerge from the pod bright red. As the large leaves are a bit of a hassle in yard cleanup, so are the seed pods. As kids we called them hand grenades and liked to throw them…. I am sure we were most appreciated by neighbors.
My other sources for this tree posting include University of Florida with its wonderful 4 page information sheet and Floridata, a nice short info sheet. Be sure to check out these sites for more in depth information on this wonderful tree.
Our next Tuesday's Tree will be in January…I would be fooling myself to think I would get one done during the holidays. Which tree will it be?? Since it is winter, I feel a need to go to the evergreens. I have a couple in mind….nothing firm yet. Stay tuned!!