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TREE PROFILE:   SWEET BAY MAGNOLIA

COMMON NAME: Sweet bay magnolia. Sometimes called beaver tree because beavers are fond of the tree; colonists baited beaver traps with its bark and roots.

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Photo: Virginia Living Museum

BOTANICAL NAME: Magnolia virginiana. Native range: Massachusetts to Florida, west to Texas near the coast.

DESCRIPTION: Small, flowering, multi-stemmed tree.

SIZE: 10 to 20 feet tall.

LEAVES: Glossy dark green above, pale green beneath. Highly variable tree characterized by both evergreen and deciduous forms.

FLOWERS: White flowers May-June; sweet, lemon fragrance that is noticeable at some distance from plant.

FRUIT: Woody cone-like structure with bright red seeds.

CULTURE: Usually found in the wild near streams or bogs. Tree adapts to normal garden soil, likes full sun or part shade. Needs acidic pH to look its best, may become ragged looking if placed in areas continually exposed to drying summer winds. Cold hardy zones 5-9.

LANDSCAPE USE: Beautiful small tree for landscape, use as a specimen or background plant. Suitable as nice patio tree where you can enjoy its attractive foliage and delightful fragrance.

Source: Wesley Greene, garden historian at Colonial Williamsburg, including its Colonial Nursery on Duke of Gloucester Street

May 2001

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