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Environmental Studies

Magnolia x soulangeana (Saucer Magnolia) Magnoliaceae

USDA Natural Resources Conservation ServiceUSDA Natural Resources Conservation Service


The Saucer Magnolia is likely to look similar to a shrub or tree, and it is refereed to both terms. When in bloom it’s considered to be one of the most significant deciduous or evergreen flowering trees. The large, bright-colored goblet or saucer shaped flowers, cover the naked stems, filling the air with a pleasant aromatic fragrance. 

Scientific Name: Magnolia x soulangeana

Common Name: Saucer Magnolia

Family: Magnoliaceae

Origin: France


Physical characteristics

USDA Natural Resources Conservation ServiceUSDA Natural Resources Conservation Service


Leaf: The Saucer Magnolia has leaves which are deciduous, simple, obovate, and alternate. They can grow to be three to six inches in length and about half as wide. During the summer the leaves are typically a a dark green color, that turns into an attractive brown color in the autumn. They tend to taper to the base and sprout from the twigs with a coating of pubescence. 

Flower: The flower buds are big and fuzzy about 2 cm. long; from the buds blooms a perfect flower, has male and female parts in each flower. Each bloom is composed of six waxy petals of a pinkish-purples color on the outside and a white color on the inside. The flowers petals are arranged in a goblet or saucer shape, hence where the common name derives from. The petals and sepals are sometimes referred to as “tepals” because they are indistinguishable, as are their stamens and pistils which are arranged along the central seed-bearing cone.  

Shape: The Saucer Magnolia has a rounded, upright, and erect shape. It looks like a small shrub while growing, then soon it becomes a large tree which can provide great shade. 

Trunk | Bark: The trunk and bark is a gray color with coarse texture. The tree grows to be 20 feet to 30 feet high and a spread of 25 feet at full maturity. 

Life span: The shrub or tree has a lifespan of longer than 20 years. 

Fruit: The fruit is elongated, 1 to 3 inches long; they appear in August and have small, pointed, red or dark pink colored seeds. The fruit is considered to be very attractive to the birds but cause a minor amount of litter. 

Art Knapp PlantlandArt Knapp Plantland

Ecological characteristics

The Saucer Magnolia is a hybrid of the Magnolia heptapeta and the Magnolia liliiflora, which are both native to Japan. In the Deep South the tree blooms in late winter and as late as mid-spring in colder zones. It is considered to be one of the most flowering trees in the United States, and planted wildly in both America and Europe. 

Climate: This particular plant prefers excellent, rich soil with organic matter. It is capable of growing in acidic, moist, rich, sandy, well drained, or clay soils. The amount of light needed is typically a full sun in the morning with filtered shade in the heat of day. The Saucer Magnolia can tolerate poor soil and air pollution yet it is often used as an ornamental. 


Saucer Magnolia Distribution

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Importance to the ecosystem

The Saucer Magnolia is considered to be used as an ornamental tree and not yet for any medicinal or industrial uses, it does have a few good uses. For example the large logs can be of use for manufacturing machines for cabinet or millwork. Or the wood has also been used for making paper. 

Relationship with other species

Non-human | Pests: The wildlife use the tree’s larger dead branches as a nesting site, and it’s also susceptible to Aphids, Scales, and Spider Mites. These insects may also cause damage to the tree, however the perfume of the flowers attract beetles. The beetles are pulled to the flowers in order to seek protein - rich pollen on the inside. 

Humans: The only possible health hazard for the humans from this plant is that it may cause allergies. Also, the human population prefers to use the 

Disease: The tree is mostly disease free, but it can be subject to leaf spots that are caused by bacteria or fungi. Cankers can cause the branches to die, but with regular fertilization and watering during dry weather the Cankers may be avoided. 

Other interesting facts

  • The creator of the Saucer Magnolia was Etienne Soulange-Bodin. He was a Parisian soldier that turned into a horticulturist, that cross bred plants. 

  • Many of the shrubs and trees from the Magnoliaceae family have been existent for millions of years, while the Saucer Magnolia is a hybrid created by man. 
  • The magnolias make a wonderful floral display, with the emergence of flowers in an abundance, fills the canopy before the leaves can emerge. 







Page drafted by Erika Beishen