Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Sweetbay magnolia, Magnolia virginiana, also called just Sweetbay, is a member of the magnolia family, Magnoliaceae. It was the first magnolia to be scientifically described, and is the type species of the genus Magnolia; as Magnolia is also the type genus of all flowering plants, this species can be seen to typify all flowering plants.
Sweetbay magnolia is a deciduous or evergreen tree to 30 m tall, native to the southeastern United States. Whether it is deciduous or evergreen depends on climate; it is evergreen in areas with milder winters in the south of its range, and deciduous further north. The leaves are alternate, simple (not lobed or pinnate), with entire margins, and 6-12 cm long, 3-5 cm wide. The flowers are creamy white, 8-14 cm diameter, with 6-15 tepals. The fruit is a fused aggregate of follicles, 3-5cm long, pinkish-red when mature, with the follicles splitting open to release the 1cm long seeds. The seeds are black but covered by a thinly fleshy red coat, which is attractive to some fruit-eating birds; these swallow the seeds, digest the red coating, and disperse the seeds in their droppings.
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