Suggested Use: Flowering Tree and Aesthetic Appeal
Tolerate: Black Walnut, Wet Soils and Deer
Native to: Jefferson County
Every Jimmy Buffet Parrot-head should have this tropical looking plant for their backyard.
This tree sometimes is a multi-trunked and brings an almost tropical vibe to the landscape with its large leaves.
The Umbrella Magnolia is so named for its large 24” long and 10” wide leaves which are the main feature of this native magnolia tree that extended in a whorl-like cluster from the end of branches which purportedly resembles the supports of an umbrella. While the flowers are magnificent they are not as showy or plentiful as the native Sweetbay Magnolia or some of the non-native species. The flowers appear after the leaves emerge and with the 6 to 10-inch diameter bloom a creamy white. When the tree is young there is very limited to no branching and all leaves are born from a bud at the apex of the trunk. A young Umbrella Magnolia in the winter looks like a twig that was stuck in the ground.
The tree is naturally found on forest edges and enjoys that rich organic soil and part shade, but will adapt to other climates. Eighteen species of butterflies and moths use the Umbrella Magnolia as a host plant for their caterpillars. Green tree frogs and spring peeper are known to favor the tree for its large protective leaves, while spotted salamanders and wood frogs enjoy the great leaf litter from the fallen leaves that provides spectacular habitat.
The Umbrella Magnolia was sold by John and William Bartram in fair quantities. Thomas Jefferson selected the tree to distribute to his French counterparts as the leaves dwarfed so many other plants. The tree was practically expatriated from Jefferson County in the 19th Century by the clearing of forest for farm land, as no effort was made to save the tree that has no practical use for building.■