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With over eighty species of magnolia trees, this beautifully fragrant family manages an air of conspicuous frailty like no other tree. The Southern Magnolia is a medium to large sized evergreen with large bowl shaped white flowers. It is hard to find a more adaptable, fast growing or demanding tree to grow than the magnolia. Some even grow in the wild from Michigan to the Gulf of Mexico. The Southern Magnolia is found mostly in the southwestern region of the United States. It has shiny bright green leaves that are reddish and hairy on the under side. It will produce a large oblong fruiting head made up of many small fruits that split open to reveal red seeds.

Magnolias should be planted when small in deep loose soil during a wet spring. They have vulnerable fleshy roots with one deep central taproot. Most magnolias keep an even medium green color from spring to autumn, with some species changing to a light yellow. Positioning of the tree is very important since wind and rain can destroy their fragile flowers. Light woodland shade provides the ideal conditions since shelter is a vital factor. Magnolias prefer no lime but need lots of nourishment to grow. Given the proper attention, they flower steadily from June through October.

The three major types of magnolias include the evergreen, the diciduous magnolia and the Gwillimias which are from the far east. The bull bay is considered the champion of magnolia trees. Growing to well over 100 feet in the forest of the south, they deliver a heavy, cream colored scented flower on every shoot. These are customarily grown in a high south area or near a west facing wall. The flowers of the Bull Bay can last into December. The Gwillimias flower before they get leaves. They are mostly small trees that can produce a divided array of flowers. Some are tulip shaped flowers and other produce a star shaped flower.

The oldest known member of the magnolia family is the Tulip Tree. Known as the grandfather of the family, foresters have named them the yellow poplar. This hardy tree weathers drought, air pollution and disease like a champion. The leaf of the Tulip Tree sets off like a maple leaf with pointed lobes at the sides, with the exception of the third and biggest lobe which is cut off short. The tulips open around May or June, have pale green petals which open to show a pale orange lining. Waxy blossoms cover the bare branches of the tree before leaves open. M. campbellii is the Tulip Tree that grows in the Himalayas. These grow up to 150 feet tall and have thousands of hugh pink flowers. Other species of this tree will produce white or purple flowers.
As with all flowering trees, a quick start is a very important consideration. Starting this tree from seed, if the conditions are right, can produce a good size tree in around 15 years. Magnolia flowers and leaves dry well and make excellent Christmas decorations for your home.