Sweetbay Magnolia – Identification
Q: In the front of my neighborhood in Marietta we have a tree that produces white blooms with an absolutely wonderful fragrance. The white blooms are similar, yet different, to Southern magnolia blooms. It also has little red “balls” where the blooms were earlier in the summer. The fragrance is so delightful I would like to get one or two more of these trees (depending on how big they get) for my landscape.
A: You have a sweetbay magnolia, Magnolia virginiana. It is renowned for the sweet smell of its flowers.
Your sharp eyes correctly noted that the flowers look like those of a Southern magnolia. The red balls are simply the seedpods of the tree. I suppose you could try germinating the seeds but that would be a long process. Most good nurseries should be able to find more sweetbay magnolias for you to install.