Southern magnolia, bull bay, great laurel-leaved magnolia, large-flowered magnolia (Eng); magnolia, magnolio blanco (Spa); magnòlia (Cat); magnolia lorandia (Baq); magnólia (Por).
DID YOU KNOW...? The magnolia is considered to be a true 'living fossil'. Its primitive flowers evolved before bees existed, so they developed to be pollinated by beetles.
This is a majestic tree with persistent foliage that can be more than 25 m tall. The wide, dense, dark crown has robust branches, somewhat gnarled from the base, making it reminiscent of the Chinese banyan tree (Ficus microcarpa). The dark grey, almost smooth trunk becomes rough and scaly with age. Both the buds and young twigs are covered by reddish or whitish, woolly brown hairs that give them a velvety appearance. The leaves are simple, alternate, elliptical or inversely ovate, and leathery. They are large and can be 15-25 cm long and 6-9 cm wide. They have an entire margin, sometimes a little wavy, and are dark green, very shiny and hairless on the upper side. This makes them look like those of Pleiomeris canariensis, but they can be differentiated by their velvety, reddish brown underside. Many magnolias have very aromatic bark and leaves. This species blooms from mid May to July and its flowers, solitary and spread across the branches, are large, white and showy, and can reach 25 cm in diameter when fully open. The flowers have a characteristic lemony aroma. The fruit, which look like cones, are an aggregate of numerous small fruits (follicles) covered in a fine tomentum, grouped around a woody structure. When ripe, these small fruit open longitudinally and release black seeds covered by a fleshy, orangey-red seed coat (aril). Each fruit contains either a single seed, or occasionally two.
This tree naturally grows at low altitudes in boggy forest zones, close to rivers and marshes, or forests close to the coast. It is sensitive to intense, prolonged cold weather, as well as environmental aridity, and therefore prefers warm temperate locations. It can grow in lime-rich soils, although it does far better in somewhat acidic or neutral substrates that are deep, cool, well drained and fairly organic rich. It grows best in partially shaded spots, protected from strong winds. The southern magnolia has adapted very easily to the climate in the Canary Islands, where it has naturalised from sea level to the midslopes, or medianías (zones between altitudes of 600 and 1500 m).
This tree is native to the southeastern USA, but it is very frequently cultivated as an ornamental in the Canary Islands. It is only considered to have become established in the wild on the island of Gran Canaria.