Somehow, you know summer is almost here when the Southern magnolia begin to bloom.
In East Tennessee, we have seven species of magnolia: cucumber, umbrella, bigleaf, Fraser, sweetbay, Southern and tuliptee, but it’s the Southern magnolia with its enormous (up to 12 inches in diameter) citronella-scented white flowers that is so associated with the Deep South and sultry, hot afternoons; it's the polished, aristocrat of Southern trees. The evergreen with large glossy leaves was often planted near the house, where with a pitcher of fresh-squeezed lemonade, it could be admired from the shade of the front porch.
In 1703, Charles Plumier described a flowering tree from the island of Martinique. Plumier gave the species, known locally as “Talauma,” the genus name Magnolia, to honor renowned French botanist Pierre Magnol from Montpellier, thus establishing the generic name for the group.
Three decades later, in his “Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands,” published between 1731 and 1743, English naturalist Mark Catesby writes about a tree he found in his travels in the New World. He called the tree Magnolia virginiana. Today the Southern magnolia that grows from coastal Virginia to Florida and across the Gulf Coast states is known as Magnolia grandiflora, or "Magnolia with the large flowers." Simply put.
Indeed, no other tree in this region has a flower so enormous and satisfyingly grand.
- Photo taken at Ijams Nature Center