Evergreens – Identifying

Q: I’ve found an unusual group of young trees at my back property line (in the woods). The bark is fairly smooth. It is an evergreen.

The leaves look to be sort of a mixture between a Franklinia alatamaha and a Magnolia leaf. The group of about 10 trees range from seedlings to 10′ tall. Where could I take a leaf to identify these small trees?

A: The trees you discovered could be Carolina Cherry Laurels (Prunus caroliniana) which have the following characteristics:

Leaves: evergreen, simple, alternate, elliptical 2-5″ long, 1/2 – 1 1/2″ wide. Bark: gray, thin, smooth when young Twigs: slender, greenish, gray with age

Another possibility is that they could be Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) which have the following characteristics: Leaves: evergreen, simple, alternate, elliptical 4 – 6 1/2″ long, 1-2″ wide. Bark: gray, thin, smooth or irregularly furrowed, Twigs: slender, green, hairy at first becoming red-brown and smooth.

Of course, the trees may not be native, but ones that have escaped cultivation. For more information on native plants, visit the web site of the Georgia Native Plant Society at:
Georgia Native Plant Society