Umbrella Magnolia Tree

Height: To 40 feet, but generally smaller

Evergreen/Deciduous: Deciduous

Lifespan: Up to about 100 years in rare cases

Fall Foliage: Drab yellow to brown; not very attractive

Range: Scattered locations in the southern Appalachian region, as well as a disjunct population in Arkansas

Typical Habitat: Cool, damp, sheltered coves and riparian areas   

The Umbrella Magnolia: Lending a Tropical Feel to Temperate Forests   

The umbrella magnolia is certainly an attention-grabbing species. Indeed, it looks incredibly out of place growing alongside sweetgums (Liquidambar styraciflua), beeches (Fagus grandifolia) and other common associates.

Unfortunately, it’s not a terribly common tree anywhere, though it may be abundant in specific locations. This species only grows well in sheltered coves, as the large leaves quickly become shredded from hard rain or high winds. This is often apparent during post-storm strolls through forests harboring these trees.

Umbrella Magnolia Identification: Tips & Tricks

The umbrella magnolia’s leaves, which are clustered at the ends of branches, make it easy to recognize this tree as a magnolia. And the leave’s gigantic size (occasionally reaching 24 inches) makes it easy to distinguish from most other magnolias, save for the bigleaf magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla).

However, it is relatively easy to distinguish from the bigleaf magnolia by simply noted the leaf bases: In the umbrella magnolia, the leaf bases are “V” shaped, while the bigleaf magnolia produces leaf bases that are shaped like the letter “B” (they’re sometimes described as being “eared” or “lobed” at the base).    

The Umbrella Magnolia: Additional Information

Need more information about these interesting trees? Check out some of our favorite umbrella magnolia resources:

  • Missouri Botanical Garden: General info about the umbrella magnolia tree along with an assortment of photographs.
  • North Carolina State Extension: A great resource that includes photographs, basic information, and a handy quick-reference table.
  • The Morton Arboretum: Primarily basic information about the species, but it also includes a variety of large, high-quality photographs of the plant’s anatomical structures.    
A lifelong environmental educator and the former executive director of a 501(c)3 nature preserve, Ben has led more than 10,000 miles of guided nature hikes, authored more than 40 animal care books, and been profiled in a variety of media outlets, including local public television, Countyline Magazine, and Disney Radio. When not on the trail or in front of his computer, Ben can be found cooking for his lady or playing with his dogs.

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