Magnolia trees--members of the Magnoliaceae family--grow in 210 deciduous and evergreen varieties. The Magnolia tree grows naturally in North America, Central America and the West Indies. The fragrant blossoms of the magnolia appear in shades of white, pink, yellow and purple. Adored by butterflies, the magnolia flowers range from 3 to 12 inches in diameter, depending on the tree variety.
The deciduous umbrella magnolia (Magnolia Tripetala) is treasured for its small size, which rarely exceeds 40 feet high. The tree produces 10-inch blossoms in May and June, followed by rosy cones that contain brilliant red seeds. The umbrella magnolia can have a single gray, smooth trunk or a multi-branched trunk that makes the tree appear fuller. The leaves of the tree grow quite long and are striking in appearance. The umbrella magnolia easily thrives in full sun or shady conditions. When planting this tree, avoid areas prone to strong wind because the foliage tends to be delicate, and windy conditions will fray the leaves.
The cucumbertree magnolia (Magnolia acuminate) grows quite large and can easily reach 80 feet high. The leaves of the tree can measure up to 9 inches long and appear as hairy buds when first emerging. When the leaves unfurl, they reveal a silky green leaf. Yellowish-green flowers that measure 3 inches in diameter appear high in the tree. Crooked, brilliant red cones emerge following flowering. The tree is called cucumbertree because the cones often appear to be cucumber-shaped. The wood of cucumbertree magnolias is used in furniture- and cabinet-making. The tree is deciduous and considered to be one of the largest and most striking of all the magnolias.
The Judy Zuk is a cultivar of M. x brooklynensis. The tree grows 20 to 28 feet high with a spread of 6 to 8 feet. The tulip-shaped, fragrant blossoms appear a brilliant yellow, tinged plum at the base, but they are sterile, meaning they do not produce seeds. The Judy Zuk tree prefers a sunny location where its blossoms will turn upward toward the sun, creating a striking appearance.
Hybridizer David Leach crossed the M. 'Legend' and the M. 'Butterflies' to produce the Coral Lake magnolia. His goal was to produce a simple cold-hardy yellow magnolia cultivar, but instead, he produced a tree with rare-colored blossoms. The fragrant flowers are striped in shades of yellow, pink and soft coral. The tree is exceptionally cold-hardy and can easily survive to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Leach registered the tree variety in 1997.