Just outside my office window at Ijams, there’s a sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana, if you are into the Latinized appellation). It's now in bloom, wonderful perfect blooms like the creamy calcite alabaster prized by the Ancient Egyptians, luxurious and fragrant. Yet another reason I should take the time to look out of the window more often.
The sweetbay was the first magnolia scientifically described. (Not the tree outside my window, but another one much older.) It was the first species assigned to the genus Magnolia named in honor of French botanist Pierre Magnol. That first sweetbay was found by missionaries sent to North America in the 1680s, of course, the Native Americans knew of the trees long before that, they just did not see the need to shackle the poor thing with such a cumbersome moniker.
It’s also a tree with a bit of an identity crisis, is it deciduous or evergreen? Actually, it’s both depending on where it grows. It’s evergreen in areas with mild winters in the south, and it's semi-evergreen or deciduous further north.
- Photo taken just outside my window at Ijams Nature Center