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A Discovery In The Wild, The First Magnolia Imported To England, Magnolia Virginiana

May 19, 2012

A day or two after my post on local spring flowers and plants, the magnolia tree being one, I took a walk with my camera down a road near where I live.  Looking for mossy growth and interesting plants to photograph I found a surprise awaiting me in the trees and undergrowth beside the road.  Here is a picture of this surprise:

This tree is the Magnolia virginiana, or more commonly named Sweetbay magnolia, or Sweetbay.   It was the first magnolia sent to England by horticulturist and missionary John Banister in 1478 and grown there although it was soon less popular when the larger flowered evergreen, Southern magnolia (M. grandiflora) was introduced.  It grows in moist, wet soil which explains the many dead branches since past summers have had drought conditions.  It is still cultivated today and has also been hybridized with other magnolia species.  It is an evergreen depending on the climate.  The flower has a very strong vanilla scent, different from my neighbor’s magnolia flower which has a flowery lemon scent.  The perfume can be detected from these trees several hundred yards away!   The wood has a scent similar to bay laurel is soft, straight grained and easily carved.  It is used to make boxes, containers, furniture, veneer, lumber and pulpwood.

The drawing is by Mark Catesby (1731).  The bird pictured getting ready to eat a seed is the Blue Grosbeak.

Of the flowers pictured below the one closest to the camera is white while the older flower is a vanilla color.  These flower measured approximately six inches in diameter, much smaller than the magnolias I am familiar with.

Just to give an idea of the size of the larger magnolia species this is a huge flower from a neighbor’s tree up the street.  It measures a foot across!  These flowers are approximately two inches larger than my next door neighbor’s magnolia.


From → photography

  1. Wonderful photos and a very excellent lesson. Thank You.

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