Bigleaf Magnolia – Plant of the Week

Bigleaf magnolia in the morning.

Bigleaf magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla) is one of our more beautiful flowering trees, though at times difficult to see as the flowers are typically so far above us.  So to find some flowers at more or less eye level I walked to one of our cliffs where from the edge you can see out across the hollow and over to tops of the lower trees.  From here you can look down on the trees and get a better view.  


These magnolias have the largest simple leaf structure in North America, and white draping flowers that can reach up to a foot across.  The trees are tall, but never especially large overall.  They have a surprisingly specific range, and according to the internet are often sparsely scattered even in their natural habitat.  I read these articles several times because I just couldn’t believe that something I spent so much time trying to whack and cut out of my backyard this spring was unusual.  Truthfully, they seem like the dandelions of the forest, springing up suddenly and growing quickly and prominently with their large, translucent leaves.


That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate them.  One of my favorite views is from our porch looking out into the forest in the early morning while trees are still partially hidden in the mist.  When the magnolias bloom their large white flowers stand out through the fog and their large leaves give the forest a jungle like quality.  

Bigleaf Magnolias (center of photo) growing in a recently logged section of forest

Due in part to their large, but delicate leaves, it is difficult grow a bigleaf magnolia in your garden or yard.  They are easily damaged by wind, and have very specific soil requirements. Thankfully though, they are very easy to spot in the forest and can be found flowering throughout late spring. 


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