Magnolia, the common name of a family of plants and of a genus of this family. The family is made up of 12 genera and about 230 species, most of which are trees and shrubs. With the exception of the tulip tree and the members of the magnolia genus, few other members of the family are cultivated. The remainder of this article is about the magnolia genus.
There are about 80 species. Most magnolias are deciduous rather than evergreen. The oval or oblong leaves vary from 5 to 24 inches (13-60 cm) in length. The large blossoms, which range from white or yellow to pink or purple, are usually fragrant. The magnolia blossom is the state flower of Louisiana and of Mississippi.
Magnolias usually bear brown or scarlet conelike fruit, from which the ripened seeds hang by thin, threadlike growths. The wood is sometimes used for furniture, flooring, and boxes. Magnolias thrive in rich, well-drained soil.
The cucumber tree, a magnolia that produces a cucumberlike fruit, may grow 100 feet (30 m) tall. Its flowers are greenish yellow. The tree grows from Ontario southward. The evergreen magnolia (also called bull bay magnolia, laurel magnolia, and southern magnolia), about 75 feet (23 m) high, grows from South Carolina to Louisiana. It bears very large leaves and fragrant, cup-shaped white flowers about 10 inches (25 cm) across. The large-leafed magnolia, about 50 feet (15 m) high, is native to the Allegheny Mountains. It has very large, broad leaves and purple-based, creamy-white flowers nearly one foot (30 cm) across.
Sweet bay, a shrub or small tree, grows along the coast from Massachusetts to Texas. It bears small, cup-shaped white flowers. The umbrella tree, about 40 feet (12 m) high, is found from Pennsylvania to Mississippi. Its arrangement of long leaves at the ends of the branches somewhat resembles the ribs of umbrellas. The large, white flowers have an unpleasant odor.
The cucumber tree is Magnolia acuminata; evergreen magnolia, M. grandiflora; large-leafed magnolia, M. macrophylla; sweet bay, M. virginiana; umbrella tree, M. tripetala. All belong to the magnolia family, Magnoliaceae.