Big leaf magnolia?

grrrnthumb(z8 WA)July 13, 2009

Have any of you had success with Magnolia macrophylla here in the PNW? I've only seen 2 or 3 specimens, and I really wonder why since these are so incredibly amazing trees. I've never seen anything so tropical looking, or with such big leaves, that approaches this size.

I'd also be interested in local sources if anyone knows of any. Thanks!

- Tom

Here is a link that might be useful: Magnolia macrophylla images

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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Grows to over 50' tall in this area. I had one grow about 12' tall or so and then die, probably from honey fungus. It had bloomed for some years before its demise - like other non-shrubby magnolia species raised from seed there may be a pretty long wait for flowering to commence.

As with all magnolias needs a deep moist fertile soil. No ignoring the watering in summer. With this one specifically the shelter from wind all magnolias benefit from is of particular importance, otherwise its leaves will become tattered.

And you need a site where there is both visual and physical space for an eventually medium-sized tree with huge leaves.

For something similar but with smaller parts, flowers that appear on young plants choose Ashe magnolia instead. It is a rare Floridian, reduced version of bigleaf magnolia. Same general effect but not as overpowering - much better choice for many, especially any who do not want to wait a long time for flowers.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2009 at 2:13PM
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There was/is a reasonably sized one (maybe 20') planted on the grounds of Emery's Garden in Lynnwood. Because of the interest in this plant - it IS pretty striking - they used to offer it for sale as well. I'd call before making a special trip unless you'd like to see the real thing. Might even be offering a flower or two at this time of year :-) According to several sources, even seed grown Magnolia macrophyllas bloom at a relatively early age of around 4 years.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2009 at 7:28PM
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I've had one in the ground for nine years and it has yet to flower. I haven't had any other problems with it though, and it has been a relatively easy garden subject overall. It seems to be happy enough on my heavy clay soil.

I saw an ENORMOUS one in Bremerton, perhaps about 1/2 mile northwest of Olympic College. I should go back and photograph it. Bremerton is full of interesting trees.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2009 at 12:58AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

I've seen that Bremerton specimen. Don't recall it being exceptional in size, but I've never measured it. One I noticed in Seattle once was determined to be 54' tall during 1993. See Van Pelt, Champion Trees of Washington State. Dimensions and locations of other Seattle examples can be found in Jacobson, Trees of Seattle - Second Edition.

My specimen was said to be about 10 years old when purchased. The seller probably bought it as a liner and grew it on, in their field to the size it was when offered. That would be how they new how much time had been taken for the finished plant to develop. Additional time elapsed after planting on my site before flowering commenced, we'll call it "few to several years" as I don't remember exactly.

Plants of var. ashei flower when only a few years old, while plants of var. macrophylla require about fifteen years from seed to flower

--Callaway, The World of Magnolias

...subsp. ashei, with flowering time from seed being much quicker at 3 years against 12-15 years

--Gardiner, Magnolias - A Gardener's Guide

Probably the best garden plant in this group is the Ho-no-ki, Magnolia obovata (M. hypoleuca). Emery's Garden had two tall specimens in large pulp pots priced very low earlier in the month. Perhaps they are still there, unsold to a public that mostly does not know what they are. I might have bought them if I could fit them in my truck. These are big and old enough that they may start blooming soon. Under the right conditions their floral aroma will waft hundreds of feet.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2009 at 12:36PM
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There are a couple of big ones in my neighborhood. They are fabulous. I would grow them even if they never bloomed. We have to do some hardescaping before we can start planting, but we're definately getting some. I'm thinking about ordering some small ones from Greer Garden and growing them on until we're ready.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2009 at 12:58PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

I've seen at least one there. Again, not big as far as it goes - but always fun to see.

The tree has been recorded to 105' x 8 3/4'. In Seattle, rare. The Umbrella Tree (Magnolia), a cousin, is uncommon and may be mistaken for it

--Jacobson, Trees of Seattle - Second Edition

who lists one 59' high and another 52 1/2' high for the Arboretum, as well as eight locations for others

    Bookmark   July 14, 2009 at 1:40PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Sky has a somewhat wobbly, staked head-high bigleaf magnolia in a tub for 150 bucks. Have also seen this species at other local outlets during recent years. Make some phone calls, I believe somewhere in the Seattle area I have seen a block of one gallon plants.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sky

    Bookmark   July 14, 2009 at 10:24PM
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I saw the one at Sky. If you think of where you saw them let me know, please.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2009 at 11:07AM
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I've seen them at Wells-Medina in the past. I haven't been there yet this year though.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2009 at 11:15AM
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grrrnthumb(z8 WA)

Thanks for all the replies!
M. ashei sure seems like a great tree, but I think I've got the patience for the big one, especially since I think their leaves get bigger, which is really what I want.
At that price I thought I might try some from seed. The extras would be great for sharing. Only source I could find was B & T World seeds... they're a little lax on nomenclature so I'm worried it would take years before I new for sure what I'm getting from them. Anyone else know of any seed sources?
- Tom

    Bookmark   July 17, 2009 at 12:32PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

The Magnolia Society operates a Seed Counter.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2009 at 12:50PM
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If price is an issue, you might consider mail-order sources. I got mine from Woodlanders Nursery for $10.95, but I don't know whether they still carry it.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2009 at 5:08PM
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This conversation is 2 years old, but just in case anyone is still interested....
We just bought property in Clark County, WA and there is a Big Leaf Magnolia that is pretty old. In my research to figure out what it was, I discovered that it takes 13 years before they bloom. I haven't seen others in the area, but now I'm curious.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 12:38PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

The two magnolias of this group most often seen here are bigleaf magnolia and umbrella magnolia. Umbrella magnolia usually forks low and does not have the banana-like appearance to the leaves, due to them tapering gradually to a point both on the end and approaching the base of the leaf. Otherwise they are also quite large.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 7:38PM
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