Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Southern Magnolia - Magnolia grandiflora   L.
Members of Magnoliaceae:
Members of Magnolia with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 4 » Order Magnoliales » Family Magnoliaceae
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DistributionThe native range is hard to know for sure, as the species so readily escapes from cultivation, mainly owing to bird dispersal of seeds. Apparently native only in the extreme southeastern corner of the state, in Pender, New Hanover, and Brunswick counties. The NC NHP list also gives Carteret and Jones as additional counties where it considers it to be native or probably native. However, it apparently is not found as a native on islands (such as Bald Head Island), but instead is limited to mainland forests near the coast. Otherwise, escaped into natural and disturbed habitats as far north as the VA line in the Coastal Plain and into the eastern Piedmont.

This is a Southern Coastal Plain species, occurring natively from southeastern NC to southern FL and eastern TX, rare or absent in the Piedmont.
AbundanceNative populations are rare to uncommon, within a few miles of the coast (i.e., inward of the Intracoastal Waterway). This is an NC Watch List species. In the southeastern corner of NC, it is difficult to know which populations/occurrences are native and which are not.
HabitatIn NC, the species is mostly limited to “mainland maritime forests”, on moist or rich soils. It is not clear if any natural occurrences are on high pH soil (over marl). In states farther south, it occurs in such circumneutral soils, often in ravines or on bluffs. Inland, at non-natural situations, Southern Magnolia is fast becoming a member of acidic swamps and their margins.
PhenologyFlowers from April to June, and fruits from September to October.
IdentificationThis evergreen tree needs no introduction, and no identification tips are necessary. It grows to medium size in NC, to about 70 feet tall, but not nearly as large as found in more Southerly states. The very thick, evergreen leaves are elliptical and about 6 inches long. Of course, the white flowers are very large and quite abundant over the tree. As mentioned above, it frequently escapes, and there is probably no way to be sure if a population in the southeastern counties is native. Certainly, a native site should have relatively little disturbance – such as little or no Chinese Privet (Ligustrum sinense) or other exotics – though this alone isn’t foolproof. Even the presence of seedlings and saplings is no proof of nativity.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Bull Bay
State RankS2?
Global RankG5
State StatusW1
US Status
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B.A. SorrieBrunswick County, 1995. BrunswickPhoto_natural
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