Magnolia virginiana

Photographs belong to the photographers who allow use for FNPS purposes only. Please contact the photographer for all other uses.

Sweet-bay Magnolia


Plant Specifics

Size:20-30 (60) ft by 10-15 ft.  Forms clones when growing in wet areas.
Life Span:Long-lived perennial
Flower Color:White
Fruit Color:Red,brown
Phenology:Evergreen. Blooms mid- to late spring. Fruits ripen late summer-fall.
Noted for:Showy flowers, Interesting foliage, Hurricane wind resistance


Recommended Uses:Specimen plant in moist areas. Wetland tree.  In wetlands, it forms clones making it useful for wetland restoration.
Propagation:Seed.  Cuttings.
Availability:Native nurseries, FNPS plant sales, Quality nurseries, Seed
Light: Part Shade,  Shade
Moisture Tolerance:
always floodedextremely dry
 (Stays Wet ----- to ----- Somewhat moist, no flooding)
Moisture Tolerance: Stays Wet ----- to ----- Somewhat moist, no flooding
Salt Water Flooding Tolerance:Tolerant of inundation with brackish water
Salt Spray/ Salty Soil Tolerance:Low/no tolerance of salty wind or direct salt spray
Soil or other substrate:Organic material (muck), Sand
Soil pH:Acidic



Seeds are eaten by woodpeckers, kingbirds, red-eyed vireos, mockingbirds, robins, thrushes, crows, cardinals, squirrels, mice among others.

Deer browse leaves and twigs.

Fruits eaten by gray squirrels, mice, turkey and quail as well as a variety of smaller birds  including vireos, towhees,  blue jays, woodpeckers, kingbirds,  mockingbirds, robins, thrushes, crows, cardinals, squirrels, mice among others


Larval host plant for Eastern tiger swallowtail (Pterourous glaucus).

Larval host for the southern tiger swallowtail.  This butterfly is restricted to Magnolia virginiana.

Beetles are the primary pollinators. The flowers have a hardened carpel to avoid damage by their gnawing mandibles as the feed. The beetles are after the protein-rich pollen. Because the beetles are interesting in pollen and pollen alone, the flowers mature in a way that ensures cross pollination. The male parts mature first and offer said pollen. The female parts of the flower are second to mature. They produce no reward for the beetles but are instead believed to mimic the male parts, ensuring that the beetles will spend some time exploring and thus effectively pollinating the flowers (In Defense of Plants blog).

Native Habitats:Bay swamp, forested seep slopes, floodplains of small streams, low flatwoods where fire has been excluded.

Distribution and Planting Zones

Natural Range in Florida
USDA Zones

Suitable to grow in:
10A 10B 8A 8B 9A 9B 

USDA zones are based on minimum winter temperatures


General Comments:

The silvery undersides of the leaves are striking.

Erroneously listed as a host for palamedes swallowtail butterflies. Palamedes swallowtails only feed on native members of the genus Persea.