Magnolia virginiana var. australis
Common Name: swamp magnolia
Type: Tree
Family: Magnoliaceae
Native Range: Eastern United States
Zone: 5 to 10
Height: 15.00 to 60.00 feet
Spread: 15.00 to 60.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to August
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Flowering Tree, Rain Garden
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Evergreen
Fruit: Showy
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Wet Soil, Air Pollution

Culture

Easily grown in acidic, medium to wet soils in full sun to part shade. Prefers moist, rich, organic soils, but, unlike most other magnolias, tolerates wet, boggy soils. Also tolerates shade. Appreciates a protected location in USDA Zone 5.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Magnolia virginiana, commonly called sweet bay magnolia, is native to the southeastern United States north along the Atlantic coast to New York. In the northern part of its cultivated growing range, it typically grows as either a 15-20' tall tree with a spreading, rounded crown or as a shorter, suckering, open, multi-stemmed shrub. In the deep South, it is apt to be more tree-like, sometimes growing to 60' tall. Features cup-shaped, sweetly fragrant (lemony), 9-12 petaled, creamy white, waxy flowers (2-3" diameter) which appear in mid-spring and sometimes continue sporadically throughout the summer. Oblong-lanceolate shiny green foliage is silvery beneath. Foliage is evergreen to semi-evergreen in the South, but generally deciduous in the St. Louis area. Cone-like fruits with bright red seeds mature in fall and can be showy. See also Magnolia virginiana var. australis which primarily differs from the species by being somewhat taller, having more fragrant flowers and being more likely to be evergreen.

Var. austrlis typically grows either as a 15-20' tree with a spreading, rounded crown or as a shorter, dense, suckering, multi-stemmed shrub. In the deep South, this variety is typically more tree-like and grows much taller, sometimes to 60'. Features cup-shaped, sweetly fragrant (lemony), 9-12 petaled, creamy white flowers (2-4" diameter) which appear in mid-spring and continue sporadically throughout the summer. Oblong-lanceolate, shiny green foliage is silvery beneath. Foliage is evergreen in the South and semi-evergreen to deciduous in the St. Louis area. Cone-like fruits with bright red seeds mature in autumn and can be showy. In comparison to the species, the variety is usually taller, has more fragrant flowers and is more likely to be evergreen.

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

Specific epithet means of Virginia.

Problems

No serious disease or insect problems. Susceptible to chlorosis in alkaline soils.

Garden Uses

Excellent specimen tree for the lawn or shrub border. Also effective in foundation plantings, near patios, terraces or on the periphery of woodland areas. Often planted in parks. Will grow in wet locations such as low spots or near ponds or streams.