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Loughmiller, Campbell and Lynn
Magnolia virginiana L.
Sweetbay, Sweetbay magnolia, Swampbay, Swamp magnolia, Small magnolia, Beaver tree
Synonym(s): Magnolia virginiana var. australis, Magnolia virginiana var. parva
USDA Symbol: mavi2
USDA Native Status: L48 (N)
This is a slender tree or shrub with pale grey bark, 12-20 ft. tall, occasionally growing to 50 ft. in the southern part of its range. Multiple, slender, upright trunks bear picturesque, horizontal branches. Tree has aromatic, spicy foliage and twigs. Leaves are simple, green above and whitish below, 3–6 inches long and 1–2 1/2 inches wide. Leaves are semi-evergreen to evergreen and dark green in the South; tardily deciduous, changing to bronze-purple in the North. Foliage is smaller and thinner than southern magnolia. The solitary, fragrant flowers are 4-6 in. across, with 9-12 velvety-white petals 2-3 inches across. Flowers are followed by dark red aggregate fruits exposing bright red seeds. Blossom opening in the morning and closing at night for 2 or 3 days.
This attractive, native ornamental is popular for its fragrant flowers borne over a long period, showy conelike fruit, handsome foliage of contrasting colors, and smooth bark. Introduced into European gardens as early as 1688. Called Beaver tree by colonists who caught beavers in traps baited with the fleshy roots.
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun , Jul
, VA Native Distribution:
Coastal Plain from e. MA
w. to TN,
& e. TX. Native Habitat:
Open woodlands, Shaded woods, Swamps
Growing ConditionsWater Use: High
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
CaCO3 Tolerance: None
Soil Description: Rich, moist soils. . Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay, Acid-based
Conditions Comments: Sweetbay is slow-growing and has no serious disease or insect problems. It is good for a small patio or specimen tree. Prune after blooming during the growing season because dormant magnolias do not easily heal.
BenefitUse Ornamental: Attractive, Aromatic, Showy, Blooms ornamental
Use Wildlife: Very low. Nectar-moths, Nectar-beetles
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Fragrant Flowers: yes
PropagationDescription: Propagate using stratified seed or semi-hardwood cuttings taken in summer.
Seed Collection: When ripe, the seeds are bright red, fleshy, oily, soft on the outside and stony on the inside. Gather when ripe. Clean and store in moist sand or sphagnum moss in refrigerator. Cold, moist storage also serves at stratification.
Seed Treatment: Stored seed must be kept moist and cool which will also serve as stratification. Stratify at least 60 days.
Commercially Avail: yes
Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)
is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
Mr. Smarty Plants says
Tree for sound block near Houston
April 24, 2010
I live in Pearland, just south of Houston and am looking for a tree that I can plant along my fenceline between my neighbor and me that will block noise. We have a pool and entertain a lot, but they a...
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Shrub for barrier fence in Alexandria, Virginia
August 19, 2009
Hi. we need plants to act as a barrier fence, 15 feet tall, partial shade. We are considering a holly or virginia magnolia. What can you suggest?
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National Wetland Indicator Status
This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1
(Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here
for map of regions.
Wildflower Center Seed BankLBJWC-1201
Collected 2008-08-24 in Jasper County by Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Record Last Modified: 2013-12-09
Research By: TWC Staff