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Home > Resources > North Carolina Trees > Southern Magnolia

Southern Magnolia

(Magnolia grandiflora L.)

  Southern magnolia, sometimes known as bullbay, is a medium-sized tree usually less than 80 feet tall and 3 feet in diameter. It is native to the bottomlands of the central and southern Coastal Plain. However, it is not tolerant of prolonged flooding, and its presence in natural stands is an indication of better drained alluvial terraces. Southern magnolia has been widely planted as an ornamental or landscape tree across the state. It is the only evergreen magnolia.

Southern magnolia's leathery, persistent leaves, with their shiny, dark green surface and rusty, woolly lower surface, make identifying this tree easy. The mature foliage is from 3 to 8 inches long and 2 to 3 inches wide. The large (6 to 8 inches wide), fragrant flowers have six to 12 creamy white petals. They are among the most showy of all tree flowers.

Southern magnolia is very shade-tolerant, and under natural conditions, it usually is an understory tree with a clear, straight trunk. When grown as an ornamental, it maintains its heavily leaved limbs almost to the ground.

The wood is light and soft and pale cream or tan colored, with a very indistinctive grain. When used commercially as lumber, it usually is as veneer, furniture parts, pulp for paper or in flake and chip boards.
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