Florida Forestry Information
Magnoliaceae
The Magnolia Family
 
The magnolia family includes 10 genera and about 80 species of plants that are widely distributed in temperate and subtropical areas of North America and Asia.  The trees of this family that grow in the southeastern United States have lush, succulent foliage and attractive flowers.  3 trees of this family are native to Florida. 

 Click on the links below for introductions to some of the trees of this family:
 
southern magnolia
yellow-poplar (tuliptree)
 
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Magnolia grandiflora 
southern magnolia, evergreen magnolia 
 
southern magnolia, photo by Chris DemersHabit 

The southern magnolia is a moderately large tree, 60-90 feet in height, 2-3 feet in diameter.  It has a straight, clear bole which opens into a narrow, pyramidal crown.  Grown in the open, it has a broad, conical crown with attractive symmetry.  This tree is known for its large, white, fragrant flowers and succulent evergreen foliage. 
 
Leaves 

Leaves are simple, alternate, and persistent.  The leaves are 5-8 inches long, 2-3 inches wide, oval-shaped, and taper into a bluntly pointed apex.  Leaf bases are wedge-shaped.  Leaf margins are entire.  Leaf surfaces are bright green and lustrous above, with rusty red, woolly hairs below.  Leaf petioles are short, stout, and covered with rusty red hairs.  The leaf blades are leathery. 
 
Flowers 
 
The flowers of this tree are perfect, large, 6-8 inces in diameter, attractive, and very fragrant. 
 
Fruit 
 
Fruit is an ovoid to cylindrical aggregate of pubescent, orange-red follicles, 3-4 inches long, 1-2 inches in diameter.  The seeds are red, 1/2 inch long, slightly flattened, and suspended by the open pods by slender, elastic, thread-like tissue. 
 
Twigs 

The twigs are moderately stout, and often covered with rusty red, woolly hairs.  The pith is often indistinctly diaphragmed. 
 
Bark 

The bark light brown to gray-brown and irregularly scaly. 
 
Habitat 

The southern magnolia grows on rich bottomlands or on gentle, protected slopes in mixture with other hardwood species.  It is found on the coastal plain from North Carolina to Florida; west through Lousiana and Arkansas to eastern Texas. 
 
Use 

This is one of the south's most prized evergreens.  It is used ornamentally throughout the region.  It is cut in modest quantities for lumber. 
 

Click on the link below to see more information on and/or images of this tree (use the "Back" function to return here):
 
Query the USDA Plant Database
 

 
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Magnolia virginiana 
sweetbay 
 
Habit 

The sweetbay is a small tree, 20-30 feet in height, 1-2 feet in diameter.  Its branches are nearly erect or spreading.  In many localities it is merely a shrub.  It is also known for its attractive flowers and succulent evergreen foliage. 
 
Leaves 

Leaves are simple, alternate, and persistent.  In the northern part of its range, the leaves fall in November.  The leaves are 4-6 inches long, 1-3 inches wide, elliptical-shaped, and taper into a bluntly pointed or rounded apex.  Leaf bases are wedge-shaped.  Leaf margins are entire or somewhat wavy.  Leaf surfaces are bright green and lustrous above, with a whitish, waxy layer below.  Leaf petioles are short and stout.  The leaf blades are somewhat leathery. 
 
Flowers 
 
The flowers of this tree are perfect, white, smaller than those of the southern magnolia, 2-3 inches in diameter, attractive, and fragrant. 
 
Fruit 
 
Fruit is an ovoid to ellipsoidal aggregate of smooth, dark red follicles, about 2 inches long, 1 inch in diameter.  The seeds are oval, red, 1/4 inch long, flattened, and suspended by the open pods by slender, elastic, thread-like tissue. 
 
Twigs 

The twigs are slender, bright green, pubescent, becoming reddish-brown and smooth after the first winter.  The pith is diaphragmed. 

Bark 

The bark is gray-brown and superficially scaly on large trunks. 
 
Habitat 

The sweetbay grows in swamps, swales, and moist, low ground, occassionally in thickets.  It is found on the coastal plain from Massachusetts to Florida; 
 
Use 

This tree is sometimes used as an ornamental. 
 
 

Click on the link below to see more information on and/or images of this tree (use the "Back" function to return here):
 
Query the USDA Plant Database
 

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Liriodendron tulipifera 
yellow poplar, tuliptree, tulip-poplar 
 
tulip-poplar leaf, photo by USDAHabit 

Yellow-poplar is one of the largest trees of the eastern forest trees, often reaching 100 to 200 feet in height, 4-6 feet in diameter and developing a long, clear bole; topped by a broad, spreading, oblong crown. Its root system is deep and widespread.  
 
Leaves 

Leaves are simple, alternate, deciduous, and shaped like a tulip, hence one of its common names. The leaves are 4-6 inches long and 2-3 inches wide. Leaf margins are entire.  Leaf surfaces are dark, lustrous green above, paler below.  Leaf petioles are slender, 4-6 inches long. 
 
Flowers 
 
Flowers are complete, cup-shaped, with yellow to light green petals; bright orange, rounded bases. 
tulip-poplar flower, photo by USDA 
Fruit 
 
Fruit is a cone-like structure of winged samaras, 1.5 inches long.
 
Twigs 

The twigs are slender, reddish-brown, sometimes purplish, with many small specks (lenticels).  The pith is diaphragmed. 

Bark 

The bark is dark green on young stems, becoming gray with small, white patches, later streaked with narrrow lines; with fine, deep furrows. 
 
Habitat 

The tulip-poplar grows on moist, well-drained, loose-textured soils on flats and slopes.  It is found from Massachusetts, west to Michigan, south to northern Florida and Louisiana. 
 
Use 

Aside from being a beautiful forest tree and ornamental, it is among the most important of southern hardwoods for the construction of several products. Its porosity, lightness, flexibility and strength makes it good for furniture, barrel bungs, aircraft, paneling and wooden novelties. 
 
 

Click on the link below to see more information on and/or images of this tree (use the "Back" function to return here):
 
Query the USDA Plant Database
 
 
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