Friday, August 2, 2013

big leaf, none bigger

And speaking of magnolias—and I like to speak about them—the bigleaf magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla—named by André Michaux himself) is one of the hardest to locate in East Tennessee, they are more at home in southern Mississippi/Alabama.

The name fits. Does it ever fit! This tree boasts the largest simple leaf and single flower of any native plant in North America. They're tropical looking. Individual leaves can be up to 30 inches long and 12 inches broad. A bigleaf's branches often bend under the weight of their own heavy foliage.

Bigleaf range. Wiki Media. 
The big leaves suit the bigleaf well allowing them to tolerant the low light levels in the understory. It does not need full sun to survive once established, dappled is just great, although, it cannot survive in full shade.

I took the photo at the top of this post along a mountain road in the Cumberlands near Royal Blue. I also measured the longest leaf and it was indeed a whopping 30 inches long. 

My long ago botany professor at UT, Dr. Aaron Sharp, taught me there were seven magnolias in our area: Fraser, cucumber, umbrella, bigleaf, Southern, sweetbay and the tuliptree, a.k.a. yellow poplar which is not a poplar at all. 

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