Richard C. Bogren, Owings, Allen D.
Louisiana gardeners are always looking for nice trees for the landscape. The sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) is an excellent native tree that is not nearly as well known as it should be. The variety chosen as a Louisiana Super Plant selection last fall is the evergreen type, Magnolia virginiana var. australis, which retains its leaves through winter.
Speaking of the leaves, the foliage of the sweetbay magnolia is especially beautiful. Smaller and lighter green than the Southern magnolia and without the glossy shine, the foliage of the sweetbay is bright silver on the reverse. When the wind catches the canopy and flips up the leaves, the ripples of silver are a delight to the eye.
Flowers are creamy white and about 2-3 inches in diameter. They are present in April and May and have a lemony fragrance. Mature trees will average about 30 feet tall with a spread of 20 feet, but larger sizes are not uncommon.
Trees commonly are grown with a single trunk and will produce an attractive columnar, upright tree, but they can also be grown multi-trunked.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture