Tree of the Week, Magnolia grandiflora

*Botanical Name: Magnolia grandiflora (grandi means big and
flora means flower, just in case it wasn’t obvious enough).

**Family: Magnoliaceae

***Common name: Southern magnolia (most common in SF), bull- bay, evergreen magnolia.

****Native environment: Virginia to central Florida, Arkansas to Eastern Texas (left).

*****Height: up to 90 feet. Wiki says the biggest ones recorded are in Louisiana; one tree has a trunk18 feet in circumference at breast height; another tree is 114 feet tall. Wow!!

******Likes rich, moist, well drained soil. They do NOT do well if the soil constantly wet. They can tolerate shade when they are younger, but need full sun later on in life.

*******Many cultivars; some with gigantic flowers (up to a foot across), some slow growing dwarf trees, various leaf sizes, colors, and shapes. My friend Waiyde says he has one that has huge, dark purple flowers.

*******Magnolia grandiflora is an evergreen, but they still drop leaves and make a mess. The last time I pruned a magnolia street tree this little old man kept telling me to cut it down completely. He groaned and groaned about it so much we nick-named him “Mona”. He said he was forever having to sweep the sidewalk. Poor Mona; not a very happy man.


Southern magnolias are very common in San Francisco as street trees. They have large, waxy, dark green leaves that are sometimes yellow/orange and fuzzy underneath. The waxiness make them very tolerant of pollution in cities. The big, usually white blooms are quite fragrant. Yum.
It is also the state flower of Mississippi and Louisiana and was an emblem of the Confederate army in the Civil War.
It is also Mississippi’s state tree.


Here are a couple of small magnolias we pruned over on Vicksburg in Noe Valley. I did the pruning, Kent did the ground work. Kent is great at securing the ground, making sure that I am aware of pedestrians walking below. We don’t want anyone getting hurt.

before: after: