Magnolia virginiana


Whitebay (Magnolia virginiana) is also known as Sweet Bay, Swamp Bay, Southern Sweet Bay, Laurel Magnolia, Swamp Magnolia, Beaver Tree, Swamp Sassafras, Indian Bark, Sweet Magnolia, White Laurel, and Swamp Laurel. It is a native in the Magnoliaceae and varies in form from a shrub to a large tree to 30 ft. The bark is pale gray to brown and smooth. The twigs are slender, bright green, and glabrous to hairy. The twigs have a stipular ring scar at the base of each leaf. The leaves are alternate, simple, and with pinnate major veins and the blade margins are entire. In Louisiana and other southern states it is tardily deciduous to evergreen but is deciduous in northern states. The blades are oblong to elliptic or narrowly oval, 3-6" long, 1-2.5" wide, apex obtuse, base broad cuneate, upper surface green, and lower surface distinctly white and glaucous (hence the name white bay). The creamy white flowers are solitary and with many free parts. The are 2-4" wide and very fragrant; it is reported that the flowers have been used in perfume manufacture. The fruit is an aggregate (cone like) of follicles with red seeds. The wood is pale brown, sapwood white, soft, weighs 31 lb per cu ft and used for making light woodenware articles. The leaves are browsed by deer and the seeds are eaten by several songbirds. The dried leaves are used as a cooking spice especially in beans and was told that some mixed it with sassafras leaves to make file. In bogs, baygalls, edges of streams (FACW) in areas with acid pH throughout the state. A few plants on the western edge of Allen Acres with more in the adjacent baygall. Four swallowtail butterflies (Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Palamedes Swallowtail, Black Swallowtail, and Spicebush Swallowtail) are reported to eat Magnolia virginiana. Caterpillars of six large moths (io moth, tuliptree silkmoth, promethea silkmoth, sweetbay silkmoth, banded sphinx, and Vine sphinx) are also reported to eat this plant.