The magnolia tree is the state tree of Mississippi but flourishes throughout the southern United States. It is a durable, evergreen tree that produces round, white, fragrant blossoms in the spring. The magnolia tree grows in a conical shape, growing up to 80 feet tall and 40 feet wide. Magnolia leaves are thick, shiny and oval-shaped, reaching up to 8 inches long.
Ancient magnolia trees date back to the Ice Age, over 35 million years ago. In ancient China, the magnolia was known as "Yu-Ian" or Jade Orchid. Japan has been growing magnolias for centuries, and fossils of magnolia have been found from Aztec cultures.
The magnolia was introduced to Europe in 1731. It became very popular because of its large, fragrant flowers, elegance and easy care. The Southern Magnolia tree has become the most widespread ornamental tree planted around the world.
The scientific name for the Southern Magnolia tree is Magnolia Grandiflora. It is a slow-growing, evergreen tree that requires partial sun and moist soil. Magnolia flowers are shaped like white, 12-inch saucers. The magnolia tree produces red seeds in the autumn. Southern Magnolia trees grow best in areas where the temperature does not go below 0 degrees F.
The main use of magnolia trees is for their flowers and ornamentation, but they are also valued as shade trees in warm climates. Magnolia trees were often planted on southern estates to block the wind and provide shade from their large, thick leaves.
Magnolia trees are also cultivated as timber trees. Some magnolias, especially those from Asia, are used to make furniture. The bark and flower buds are used to produce medicinal tonics, and the seeds are eaten by wildlife.
Magnolia trees are usually disease-free but can be affected by a bacterium that causes spots on the leaves. These spots do not require treatment. Cankers are another disease in magnolias that form on the branches. Pruning the branches that have cankers prevents further spreading of the disease.
Dig the hole for a Southern Magnolia two times as large as the root ball. Plant the roots level with the top of the soil. Water and mulch the magnolia after planting. Do not fertilize the tree until it is established. Planting magnolia trees in ornamental gardens with other flowering plants will prevent damage to lawns when the large leaves and seed pods shed.