47 Gordonia lasianthusCommon Names: loblolly bay, bay Family: Theaceae (tea Family)
Loblolly bay is an attractive evergreen tree the can grow to 70 ft (21 m) in height with trunk diameter up to 1.5 ft (0.5 m). It has persistent, leathery oblong leaves 4-6 in (10-15 cm) long that are dark green above and paler, sometimes woolly below. The large handsome flowers are about 3 in (7.6 cm) in diameter and appear in late spring and sporadically throughout the summer. The white blossoms are composed of 5 petals that burst from a spherical bud and surround a golden center. The flowers are fragrant and are attractive to many insect species. Loblolly bay grows with a distinct narrowly conical crown that is one the species' most attractive attribute.
Loblolly bay, Gordonia lasianthes, is native to southern United States coastal plain, from southern Virginia, west to Louisiana, and south to Lake Okeechobee in peninsular Florida. It inhabits swamps, bogs, wet flatwoods and similar wet areas.
CultureLight: Full sun to filtered shade. Moisture: Likes moisture and can tolerate swampy conditions. Will also do well in the garden or lawn if watered during drought conditions. Hardiness: USDA Zones 6 - 9. Propagation: Seeds and cuttings.
With its handsome evergreen foliage and showy blossoms, loblolly bay makes an excellent specimen tree or grove in wet areas and at the margins of lakes and ponds. The symmetric narrowly conical form of this tree makes it a most beautiful specimen standing in an expanse of lawn either singly or in groups. Young specimens can be grown in containers and strike an elegant note on the patio or in pairs flanking an entryway.
It's the beautiful flowers that make this one of my favorite native trees (that and the fact I live surrounded by swamp). Three narrow spires of loblolly bay tower over my pond. Throughout most of the summer it launches its large but delicate white flowers into the water. My favorite summertime activity (mosquitoes, heat and humidity permitting) is watching from a lawn chair as my loblolly bays' blossom fleet sails the breezes upon the still black water.
On a more practical note, the light pink wood of this forest tree has been used for cabinetry and tannic extracts from its bark were sometimes used for tanning leather. This tree is becoming increasingly available for landscape use, look for it at your nursery.
Loblolly bay is often found growing with sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana) which it resembles. The leaves of sweetbay have white underside which distinguishes it from loblolly bay with light green.
Jack Scheper 08/17/97; updated 07/05/98, 07/10/03, 9/17/03