|Monday Melange: Sweetbay Magnolia|
|Written by Heleigh Bostwick Monday, 20 February 2012|
Sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) is a wonderful small to medium sized tree that is native to the coastal plain of the eastern US. Hardy between USDA Zones 5 and 10, its range extends from Massachusetts south to Florida and across to Oklahoma and Texas. It is a member of the Magnolia plant family (Magnoliaceae), one of the oldest flowering plant families, so old that they were around during the dinosaur age. Sweetbay magnolia is one of just eight magnolias native to North America.
Sweetbay magnolia, which gets its name from the fragrant bay-like leaves, also goes by the name of swamp or swampbay magnolia. Blooming in late spring, typically in May and June, sweetbay magnolia has a single showy and lemon-scented fragrant creamy white flower. The shiny dark green glossy leaves have silvery green undersides. Sweetbay magnolia also has showy and interesting fruit that looks like a red berry fruit cone.
Sweetbay magnolia prefers acidic, rich soils and tolerates “boggy” conditions. If there’s a spot with wet soils on your property and you’re looking for a flowering tree sweetbay magnolia might be it. Sweetbay magnolia sometimes grows as a multi-stemmed shrub or small tree (my preference). In its tree form (single trunk) it grows to a height of 15-20 feet tall in the northern ranges and as tall as 40 to 60 feet in its southern range. Sweetbay magnolia looks great planted in groups of three to five around the patio where their fragrance and colorful fruits can be enjoyed or as a single specimen tree. Propagate by seed and cuttings from 2- to 3-year old plants.
Sweetbay magnolia is listed as endangered in New York and Massachusetts and threatened in Pennsylvania and Tennessee.
Photo source: Pender Nursery, Inc. www.pendernursery.com