Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tuesday's Trees- Michelia maudiae

Have you ever felt like you knew every inch of a place, a garden or a park, thought you knew every plant there?  For the last year and a half I have walked the Learning Garden, looking at every plant.  Imagine my surprise when I was walking through the tree and shrub area and found a tree I didn’t remember seeing before.  In early December I was checking out the Osmanthus fragrans and saw this tree, now where in the world did that come from??  The name was a new one for me as well.  Michelia maudriae, have you heard of it?  In order to research this I had to look far and wide.

I did find some information from Michael Dirr’s Trees and Shrubs for Warm Climates, it is a shade tolerant, 12+ Ft. shrub, with white, fragrant flowers that bloom in the April time frame on old wood.  It is an evergreen shrub or small tree.  The fragrance of its blooms is said remind one of banana oil.  One of its common names is Banana Shrub.  Makes sense right?  I think I may have seen one in the Norfolk Botanical Garden.  I remember a magnolia type tree with blooms that smelled of bananas.  As there was no name on the tree that we could find, I am only guessing.  Les?  Do you know of this tree in the NBG?

The Michelia is a member of the Magnolia family and has recently been reclassified as a Magnolia.  It does differ from Magnolias as it blooms on its leaf axis opposed to Magnolias that bloom on terminal buds.  There are multiple cultivars of the Michelia, some with purple blooms. 

It is hardy from zones 7-9 (10),  and it growing in availability.  The foliage is blue-green ovate alternate and large.   It prefers rich, moist, acidic soil and does best in a part shade setting.   According to Dirr is can withstand heavy pruning, but remember it blooms on old wood.

Some of my references online include Wikipedia-good background information, JC Raulston Arboretum-wonderful photos, University of Florida Extension-nice info, and from down under- Burke’s Backyard gives a little background information on the tree.

Next week’s tree- Long leaf Pine

words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.


  1. Magnolia flowers are wonderful! I guess the flowers filled the air around with a powerful, lemony fragrance. ~bangchik

  2. I had typos in the first post...

    I wanted a Michelia a few years ago, but got my magnolia viriginiana instead. The Michelia is more difficult to locate.

    My intro to the sweetbay magnolia was at Biltmore. We were sitting on a bench outside the winery in May and couldn't believe the incredible fragrance. There was a sweetbay magnolia planted right up on the sidewalk. I had to have one!


  3. You know, I'm almost positive this is what I saw at Ft. Myers, FL, at the Edison and Ford Estates. As I read your description, it was sounding more and more familiar. I love unusual things! Your Tuesday Tree feature is really nice, Janet. Thanks!

  4. Huh, never heard of this! I would like to smell it - banana oil is an intriguing description.

    Now the other shrub you mentioned, sweet olive, I LOVE!!! That is my favorite smell on earth.

  5. Never heard of it before! I think I'd love it-shade tolerant and in the magnolia family. Heck yeah!

  6. I have heard of Banana Shrub before, in Passalong Plants, but have never seen/smelled one in flower IRL, unfortunately. I would like to get one. The more fragrant shrubs, the better!

  7. There's always something new to learn in the plant world, isn't there? I've never heard of this shrub before, but I did think the leaves looked like a magnolia tree's. Interesting that it should smell like bananas.

  8. I'm pretty sure I have heard of Michelia-that-looks-like-a-magnolia before. Though it won't grow in my garden, it looks lovely in the learning garden. And the purple-flowered cultivars sound beautiful.

  9. What I know of Michelia is on my blog here:


  10. Hi Bangchik, the fragrance of this one was of bananas! Really interesting. I will have to check this one from the Learning Garden in the spring.

    Hi Cameron, you had to choose? I think I would want both!! I look forward to going to visit Biltmore one of these days. Our new place is a lot closer to Asheville.

    Hi Kylee, I bet you did see it in Florida. This is unusual but very close to Magnolias. I am so glad you like the tree series, thanks!

    Hi Ginger, We were sure intrigued in the spring when we saw it ....now to see the one in the Learning Garden bloom. I love tea olives too!

    Hi Tina, it does seem like a winner doesn't it?

    Hi Sweet Bay, think you would enjoy this one. I like lots of fragrance too!

    Hi Rose, Yes, always something new. I was so surprised to see this one in the Learning Garden, after walking past it so many times.

    Hi VW, I would sure like the purple one as well.

    Hi Nell Jean, thanks for the link. This Michelia is a little different from the M. figo, but what a great one in your post...really huge!

  11. I am not sure which Michelia you saw at the gardens, but the most common one in the trade is M. figo which is the one called Banana Shrub. It is so sweet smelling, almost like a banana popsicle. There is a cool cultivar called 'Port Wine' which has wine coloration on the pale yellow flowers.

    I got in some M. maudiae several years back, they were not an easy sell, so I haven't gotten any recently. You may want to check with Diane S. to see if I sold her the one in the Learning Garden, I can't remember.

    When you move to SC, make sure you make a road trip to North Augusta to check out Nurseries Caroliniana. I buy from them, but they do retail as well. They carry this plant as well as lots of things that will give plant geeks apoplexy.

  12. I was thinking in the first picture that it resembled a Magnolia. How funny that you have never noticed this beauty before now. Gotta keep those eyes open girl :-)

  13. Hi Les, The one ..at NBG sure smelled like bananas. Port Wine sounds nice!
    I suspect you sold Diane the one in the garden, seems you have put your touch on many choices in the LG, now you need to come and see it!!
    When I was looking for information about the Michelia I read Nurseries Caroliniana's webpage. Will check them out more thoroughly upon your endorsement. thanks.

  14. Hi Skeeter, you are so right!! keep those eyeballs peeled! Magnolias are super to have in the garden.

  15. I've never heard of this one. I wish I could smell the banana scented flowers!

  16. What a fabulous blog. Micehlia is my favorite flower but none i could find in my country. I love fragrant flowers and i am sure one day i will have it.

  17. Nice tree! I don't think I've seen any around the Williamsburg area.

  18. Hi Catherine, the fragrance is really interesting, wish you could smell it too!

    Hi Muhammad, thanks so much. I wish you luck in finding one for your garden.

    Hi Phillip, They look so similar to Magnolia one could easily walk by one if it isn't in bloom.

  19. This is another new one to me Janet...Too warm natured for here...but I can admire its beauty. gail


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