Southern magnolias are evergreen trees with large, shiny, leathery evergreen leaves and large, fragrant 6-petaled creamy-white flowers that appear on the ends of thick, tough stems all over the tree.
Magnolias have distinctive large, shiny evergreen leaves, and large fragrant flowers with many long narrow petals. The leaves often have an orangish-coloration on the underside. Sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) also occurs in southern coastal plains but has thinner leaves with whitish undersides.
Did You Know?
The Southern magnolia is one of the most beautiful trees and is therefore highly valued as an ornamental. The Choctaw and Kosati tribes used the bark of this tree as a dermatological aid. The Southern magnolia is the state tree of both Louisiana and Mississippi.
The leaves are distinctly alternate. Southern magnolias have a dense growth of smooth, leathery evergreen leaves that are 5 to 10 in (12 to 24 cm) long, dark, shiny green on top, and rusty below.
Fragrant, creamy-white flowers (which discolor easily if bruised), appear on the ends of thick, tough stems all over the tree. They are cup-shaped, about 8 in across, with 6 thick petals, wider at the tip. The blossoms open at about 9:00 a.m. and close at night for 2 or 3 days; then all the stamens are shed and the flower reopens, turns brown, and disintegrates.Flowering occurs in the spring. The flowers appear throughout the summer and into the fall.
Conelike seed pods contain large red seeds. When the pods open, the seeds often fall from place and hang by silky threads.
The bark is gray, rough, thick, and furrowed in thick plates. The twigs are densely red or white and hairy.
Southern magnolia can be found throughout the southern coastal plain from the Carolinas to eastern Texas and thrives in wooded dunes, hammocks, river bottoms, ravine slopes, and coastal plains. It is also commonly planted in parks and along streets in areas of mild climate across the country
Distribution in the US