Sweetbay Magnolia virginiana Linnaeus    Synonyms: Sweetbay Magnolia.
Kingdom Plantae   >   Division Tracheophyta   >   Class Magnoliopsida   >   Order Magnoliales   >   Family Magnoliaceae   >   Genus Magnolia   

Status:

Sweetbay ranges from western Massachusetts, Long Island, and Pennsylvania south to Florida and west to Texas.

In Maryland, Sweetbay occurs mainly on the Coastal Plain, usually near water - wet woods and edges of swamps. In the Washington, DC, area, along the inner Coastal Plain near the Fall Line (the division between the Piedmont and the Coastal Plain physiographic provinces), Magnolia virginiana is a characteristic component of distinctive natural features that Washington-area naturalist W.L. McAtee (1918) first defined, terming them "Magnolia Bogs." These bogs contain a unique assemblage of unusual or rare plants. Simmons and Strong (2002) explained that the bogs "usually form on hillsides or slopes where a spring or seep flows from an upland gravel and sand aquifer over a thick, impervious layer of underlying clay which prevents the downward infiltration of water. This seepage flow and the highly acidic, gravelly soils create optimal conditions for the formation of bogs.... Magnolia Bogs are...acidic, fen-like seeps uniquely associated with high elevation gravel terraces."

Description:

Sweetbay is deciduous. It is usually a multi-stemmed plant or small tree, with large, white, slightly lemon-scented blossoms in May and June, giving way to pods with bright red seeds in fall. It usually reaches 15-20 feet tall, but it can grow to 50 feet tall.

Where to find:

Search for Sweetbay in bottomland swamps on the Coastal Plain.

Relationships:

>Host plant for Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

Host plant for various species of moth including Magnolia Serpentine Leafminer (forms distinctive leafmines), Tulip Tree Leaftier Moth, and Paralobesia cyclopiana (Gilligan, Wright, & Gibson, 2008, Database of the World's Lepidopteran Hostplants).

There are 367 records in the project database.

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Sweetbay in Charles Co., Maryland (6/10/2016). Photo by Stewart Grand. (MBP list)

A flowering Sweetbay found blooming in Caroline Co., (5/28/2012). Photo by Jim Brighton. (MBP list)

A Sweetbay with a flower that has passed from bright white into a dingy brown. Soon the flowers will fall leaving the seed pod exposed. Dorchester Co., Maryland (6/2/2012). Photo by Jim Brighton. (MBP list)

Sweetbay in Dorchester Co., Maryland (6/6/2020). (c) Wayne Longbottom, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC). Photo by Wayne Longbottom. (MBP list)

Below: Sweetbay in Dorchester Co., Maryland (11/11/2012). Photo by Bill Hubick. (MBP list)

The trunk of a Sweetbay in Worcester Co., Maryland (2/23/2013). Photo by Jim Brighton. (MBP list)

Fruiting Sweetbay in St. Mary's Co., Maryland (8/9/2014). Photo by Jim Stasz. (MBP list)

Sweetbay in Anne Arundel Co., Maryland (11/1/2010). Photo by Bill Harms. (MBP list)

Sweetbay in Anne Arundel Co., Maryland (8/16/2016). Photo by Wayne Longbottom. (MBP list)

The buds of a Sweetbay in Worcester Co., Maryland (2/23/2013). Photo by Jim Brighton. (MBP list)

Sweetbay buds in Worcester Co., Maryland (3/22/2014). The lower buds had all been browsed by White-tailed Deer. Photo by Bill Hubick. (MBP list)

Sweetbay in Howard Co., Maryland (6/27/2016). Photo by Jim Wilkinson. (MBP list)

Sweetbay in Calvert Co., Maryland (12/20/2020). (c) Wayne Longbottom, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC). Photo by Wayne Longbottom. (MBP list)

Sweetbay in Queen Anne's Co., Maryland (11/26/2020). (c) dansmall, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC). Photo by Dan Small. (MBP list)

Sweetbay in Caroline Co., Maryland (6/5/2016). Photo by Wayne Longbottom. (MBP list)

Sweetbay in Anne Arundel Co., Maryland (6/9/2019). (c) Matthew Beziat, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC). Photo by Matthew Beziat. (MBP list)


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