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Found only in the Southern and Central Appalachian Mountains from West Virginia to Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina and Northern Georgia, Fraser magnolia (Magnolia fraseri), also called "mountain magnolia", is a common early-growth tree of clearings and cutovers in the lower to mid elevations.
The tree is most common in forest "coves", narrow valleys protected by higher surrounding hills. Fraser magnolia likes acidic soil, and grows along with red oak, tulip poplar and hemlocks. While not really a commercially useful tree, it is a beautiful ornamental, with a spreading, upright habit and smooth gray bark.
The flowers are 8-12 inches wide, and have a sweet lemon-like scent. The leaves are large and showy, up to 10 inches in length and half as wide. Foliage appears in whorls, giving a rather tropical appearance to the tree. Large flowers are followed by cone-like fruits, with numerous small, red berries.
An interesting note - Though it prefers a sheltered, moist setting, it will grow in far less ideal circumstances even in the wild. Fraser magnolia is one of the few trees of "beech gaps" in the Southern Appalachians - These so-called "gaps" are clefts in ridgelines where the wind rushes through, stunting what few plants grow there. Usually, the few trees are American Beech, Red Spruce, Red Oak and Fraser Magnolia.
An excellent ornamental and wildlife tree, Fraser magnolia offers thick, cool shade and adds visual appeal to the landscape. The flowers are visited by pollinators, and the fruits are valued by wildlife for food. In habit, the tree has an almost tropical appearance, with its large leaves and flowers.
Since it is somewhat tolerant of wind, Fraser magnolia is one of the best large-leaved magnolias for windy areas. The trees will be a bit shorter and stunted, but they will still grow. If you've tried Umbrella Magnolia (M. tripetala) without success, you may have better success with Fraser Magnolia.
Relatively easy to grow in moist, rich soils, Fraser magnolia is an excellent, easy-to-grow tree for smaller yards. Typically only growing to 40 feet or less, Fraser magnolia's small size is more in keeping for patios, decks and other outdoor living areas. Plant this tree along with rhododendrons and oaks for a beautiful acidic woodland garden!
Though found mostly in loose, acidic soils, we have seedlings that have done very well in neutral floodplain loams as well as poor, dry clay. Soils that typical rich hardwoods such as beech, white oak & sugar maple grow on will support fraser magnolia just fine.
Many sources state that fraser magnolia is difficult to grow, but we have found this tree to be a strong, vigorous grower here in Central Indiana, growing about 2 feet per year when conditions are to its liking. Fraser magnolia grows much more strongly than Umbrella magnolia, and its smaller leaves are much more wind tolerant - we still recommend planting these in sheltered areas, though.
Seeds are started in February to Early March in Rootmaker® propagation trays, and finished off in our Quart SuperPlug fabric containers. You will get a tree about 1 to 2 feet tall with an excellent, well-branched root system.
|Common Name:||Fraser Magnolia|
|Botanical Name:||Magnolia fraseri|
Excellent plants. Appear to be very vigorous and well rooted. look forward to seeing how they grow for me over the next few years in CT.