Magnolia tripetala
Common Name: umbrella tree
Type: Tree
Family: Magnoliaceae
Native Range: Eastern North America
Zone: 5 to 8
Height: 15.00 to 30.00 feet
Spread: 15.00 to 30.00 feet
Bloom Time: May
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Flowering Tree
Flower: Showy

Culture

Best grown in moist, slightly acidic, organically rich, well-drained loams in part shade. Tolerates close to full shade. Plants will grow in full sun, particularly in the northern parts of their growing range, as long as soils are kept moist. Plants appreciate consistent and regular moisture throughout the year, and are generally intolerant of soil extremes (dry or wet). Site in areas protected from strong winds to prevent damage to the leaves.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Magnolia tripetala has large, ovate to oblong, shiny green leaves (to 24" long and to 10" wide) of this deciduous magnolia appear in whorl-like clusters at the stem tips, purportedly resembling the spokes of an umbrella. It is an understory tree that is native to rich moist woods, ravines, slopes and along streams in the Appalachian Mountains from Pennsylvania and West Virginia to North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky plus the Blue Ridge Mountains into South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama. It is a small, often multi-trunked, tree that typically grows to 30' tall, but may rise to as much as 45' tall. Malodorus, bowl-shaped, creamy white flowers (to 6-10" across) bloom in spring shortly after the leaves emerge. Each flower has 6-9 (sometimes 12) petal-like tepals. Flowers are followed by cone-like pink fruits (to 4" long) that ripen in fall. Thin, smooth, gray bark.

Genus name honors Pierre Magnol, French botanist (1638-1715).

Although tripetala means three petals, the specific epithet may in fact be in reference to the three sepals on each flower.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Late frosts may damage flowers.

Garden Uses

Specimen for shady lawn areas.