Botanical Name: Magnolia

Brief Description and Notes: Several native Magnolias can be found in our region, including: cucumber-tree (Magnolia acuminata), Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), bigleaf magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla), umbrella-tree (Magnolia tripetala) and sweet bay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana). Several non-native ones are popular as well. They will bloom at different periods in the spring, and many of the native varieties have very short bloom periods. Size ranges from shrubby to towering up to 100 ft. depending on species. They are also usually fragrant. Some species of Magnolias have edible petals.

Pickling magnolia petals

Where To Look For It: State parks, public gardens, local yards; generally loamy and moist soil; usually tolerates full sun to part shade. Many species prefer slightly acidic soil. 

Ornamental Value: Large and attractive blooms, often white or pink. Often doesn’t have pest or disease issues. Some species are deciduous, while others are evergreen, such as the Southern Magnolia. The fragrance is also a desirable feature. 

Ecological Value & Roles: Seeds are eaten by a variety of small mammals and birds. Evolved with beetles as pollinators, which may explain why the leaves and flowers are especially tough. 

Edibility and Other Human Use: The petals are edible and possibly medicinal. Do exercise caution and research which species are *known* to be edible. I have had success with pickling the petals into a peppery condiment. The bark is also said to be edible, but is less sustainable to harvest. 



Phipps Conservatory: Magnolias

Urban Herbology: Magnolia Petals

USDA Fire Effects Index of Species: Magnolia grandiflora

The American Gardener Magazine, Sept/Oct. 2008