Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia

Magnolia grandiflora

The Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney - December-January

Common name Bull Bay Magnolia
Scientific name Magnolia grandiflora Moc. & Sessé
Family  Magnoliaceae

Genus: Magnolia - name allocated in honour of Pierre Magnol (1638-1715), an early Director of the botanic garden of Montpellier, France and Professor of Botany and Medicine.

Species: grandiflora - from Latin, having large flowers.

Distribution Native to the south-eastern United States of America, from Virginia south to central Florida, and west to eastern Texas and Oklahoma.
Native habitat Found on margins of ponds and swamps in rich moist soil, in association with Liquidambar styraciflua, Quercus nigra, and Nyssa sylvatica.
Description Tall tree up to 30 m. Leaves alternate, simple, evergreen, elliptic, and 12-25 cm long and 6-20 cm wide. Leaves are dark green above, lighter green below and often ferrugineous pubescent beneath. Flowers very large up to 30 cm in diameter, solitary, usually with 6 creamy white tepals, each tepal thick, concave, broadly obovate.
Flowering/fruiting Flowering in Dec – Jan. Sporadically there-after.

Location in Garden

Growing in beds 32, 75 and 97. Click here for map of garden beds & grid.


The state flower of both Mississippi and Louisiana. The flower was also the emblem of the confederate army in the Civil War.

Described by one floral designer as ‘the ultimate in decorative glamour’, the leaves are used in wreaths, mantelpieces, garlands, and vase arrangement, especially at Christmas in the United States.

May take as long as 15 to 20 years for trees to flower which have been grown from seed.

M. grandiflora has perfect, creamy white, beautifully fragrant flowers. The largest flowers and most cold hardy of the Magnolias. Magnolia grandiflora ‘Exmouth’ grows in Portland Botanic gardens in Victoria. In more sheltered habitats, it grows as a large tree, but can be a low shrub when found on coastal dunes.

Magnolia flowers do not produce nectar but they do produce large quantities of pollen. The pollen is high in protein and beetles use it for food. Hence the carpels of the magnolia flower are relatively sturdy, to protect against damage from crawling and eating beetles, that are the pollinators.
Not generally known to be weedy.