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Sweetbay Magnolia

Magnolia virginiana

Sweetbay magnolia leaves are long and oval leaves with blunt tips. They are shiny and leathery on top and whitish on the bottom. (Derek Ramsey/Flickr)
Sweetbay magnolia leaves are long and oval leaves with blunt tips. They are shiny and leathery on top and whitish on the bottom. (Derek Ramsey/Flickr)

The sweetbay magnolia is a small, semi-evergreen tree with large, creamy white flowers that bloom in early summer. It grows in forested swamps and wetlands throughout most of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Appearance:

  • Long, oval leaves with blunt tips
  • Leaves grow 4-6 inches long
  • Leaves are shiny, smooth and leathery on top and whitish on the bottom
  • Leaves may turn brown in winter
  • Large, creamy white flowers that bloom in May-July
  • Grows 20-30 feet tall

Habitat:

  • Grows in forested swamps and wetlands, as well as along stream banks
  • Can be planted in wet and moist areas in yards

Range:

  • Grows throughout most of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, except West Virginia

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Produces bundles of dark red seeds in early autumn
  • Animals such as squirrels and songbirds spread the seeds

Other Facts:

  • Sweetbay magnolias in the Chesapeake Bay region usually only grow about 20 feet tall, but in the southern U.S. they can grow to 90 feet
  • Listed as an endangered species in New York and a threatened species in Pennsylvania
  • Leaves smell spicy when crushed
  • Early colonists referred to magnolias as beavertrees because they used the tree’s fragrant roots as bait in beaver traps

Sources and Additional Information:




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