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!!


  1. Janet what a huge Magnolia tree. A wonderful tree that give you fragrance and flowers, greenery to decorate with and shade in the summer. It has it all.

  2. We can grow these here in the Arizona desert, although it is rare to find them. My alma mater, Arizona State University has a beautiful, large specimen one though. Beautiful tree.

  3. We have some in the woods: tall, tall, reaching for the sunlight, crowded by other trees and themselves. I have Little Gem in my garden.

    You cannot say enough about the fragrance. It carries across the garden with that heavenly scent of lemon. It isn't breathtaking and cloying like Confederate jasmine, but delicate yet heady.

  4. Janet,

    Wonderful post and one of my favorite trees. I might be wrong and having a senior moment but I'm fairly certain we had these in Ohio when I was growing up. I've been in NC 26 years now and could be mistaken.

    To everyone there have a wonderful Christmas and great New Years!

  5. My heart rate just increased a wee bit as this is one of my favorite trees, maybe not so much because of the species, but because of all of the cultural associations I have with it. There was a grand one in my home town on the Eastern Shore that was like a giant play house, limbs to the ground, climbable to the tippy top. This was a very appropriate choice for Christmas week, as you know it is a traditional holiday decoration. And yes, they make great hand grenades.

    Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  6. I love these when they get huge and take up an entire yard.

  7. What a beautiful, grand tree! Your photos show some beautiful specimens. I had heard that they were messy, so I thought I should be glad that they won't grow in my zone 5. But maybe a hardy, smaller hybrid would be worth a try . . .
    And congrats on the new camera!! Have lots of fun with it.

  8. Hi Lona, it is truly a grand tree. As you said, it has it all!

    Hi Noelle, I am glad to know you have at least one in Arizona that is a full size specimen. Quite a tree!

    Hi Nell Jean, in one of my references it said it could be considered invasive if it weren't a native. The seeds germinate quite easily.
    What a great description of the fragrance.

    Hi Randy, glad you liked the posting, as with many of these posts, I think of more after I have posted. Guess I could go back again and again, redoing the posts! Not sure about the one in your memory...could be...the trees don't always read the book!

    Hi Les, glad it is one of your favorite trees. One of the best plant materials to use for Christmas decorations.

    Hi Phillip, there are certainly some around here that fit that bill! We have some grand trees in this area.

    Hi VW, it certainly is! Some of the smaller varieties are certainly worth looking at. I think the 'mess' is worth it.
    My new camera is going to be lots of fun to play with...I have lots to learn.

    1. Still wondering. Is the “grenade” a seed pod?

    2. Yes it is. Later in the fall the 'grenade' will open and bright red seeds will be visible.

  9. Now this tree I know and love. The sizes of the trees in your pictures are just huge. I don't think I've seen any that big around here.

  10. I know and LOVE this tree too Janet. It's got to be my all-time favorite tree. I was excited to find 'Jane' last spring that is supposed to be hardy to my zone (5). I sure hope so. I overwintered it in the container last year (very mild winter) so this year will be the test but at least it's in the ground now.

  11. Oh Janet, this is one of my most favorite of all trees, you have done it proud too! The blooms are amazing and so fragrant as to almost be overpowering inside, but left on the tree are just right. Isn't nature so smart? There were many mature magnolias in my neighborhood growing up and we did all sorts of things with the leaves and cones and berries, but most of all we climbed to the top of the tree for a grand look around.
    Have the best of holidays!

  12. I love this tree! It's such a magnificent addition to many gardens... I love the fragrance; perfumers can try but they won't be able to duplicate what nature creates!
    I have the perfect spot for it, but not the deep soil it would need...Sigh. I'll continue to enjoy them from afar! gail

  13. Magnolias are magnificent trees. We don't have a grandiflora, but since we live near a wet place in NC we have a lot of M. virginiana -- I love the silvery undersides of the leaves and the lemony fragrance of the flowers is heavenly!

    You asked about the Dog Fennel -- it normally grows to 5-7 feet in height by the time it flowers.

    Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas!

  14. This must be the grandest tree of all you've discussed so far! At our old house we had a small magnolia, cultivar unknown, but I looked forward to its beautiful blossoms each spring. Of course, here in Illinois, it isn't that hardy so every other year it seemed we had a freeze just at the time it bloomed. I do miss that tree!

    Wishing you a very Merry Christmas, Janet!

  15. Hi Catherine, some of the ones around here are very large. Glad I finally found one you know!

    Hi Kathleen, Glad you love this tree! Seems to be a favorite of many folks. You will have to keep me posted on your 'Jane' after you get her planted in the spring.

    Hi Frances, thanks so much! Glad I did well with this post. Big old trees are such fun to play in as a kid.

    Hi Gail, it is a great addition to a garden--- if there is room!!

    Hi Sweetbay, thanks for the info on Dog Fennel. The M. virginiana are super too!

    Hi Rose, I agree, it is the grandest so far. Guess you will have to visit someone in the south to see some more Magnolias. !!

  16. I love all magnolias. That one with the huge leaves is incredible. I saw a christmas display with southern magnolia leaves in a vase with clusters of silver ornaments, it was very pretty and classic. I think they're my new favorite Christmas bouquet.

  17. Hi Megan, yes, the Magnolia makes great decorations. I used the leaves (put in a glass with glycerin & water prior to use in decorations) and they last almost forever.


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