This native of the southern states is unusual for the Illinois climate, normally preferring warmer temperatures. Although it can grow to 60 feet in the South, it does not grow taller than 10 to 20 feet in this area. Also called Swamp Magnolia, it grows well in wet, even swampy, soils and tolerates shade as well. This particular tree is welcome in most landscapes due to its flowers that bloom from May to August. Although the individual flowers last only one week, they have a very fragrant lemon scent. In addition, bright red seed pods appear in fall and attract many birds.
This particular Magnolia was found and chosen by J.C. McDaniel, a U of I professor in horticulture, for its superior cold hardiness. He planted this tree and many other unique specimens in the immediate neighborhood to study and propagate. It is unknown where this Sweetbay Magnolia originated.