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The French naturalist, explorer, André Michaux (1746-1802), was appointed Royal Botanist by King Louis XVI who instead of sending him to Asia as expected, sent him across the Atlantic to America on a plant hunting expedition. Michaux sailed for the New World in the autumn of 1785, landing in New York after a stormy passage of 47 days. He travelled throughout much of the new nation searching for exotic plants, finding this exceptional tree near Charlotte, North Carolina in 1789. He named it Magnolia macrophylla.
This species of Magnolia has the largest simple leaf and single flower of any native plant in North America and tends to be found in the South-Eastern states, usually growing in deep woodland, ravines and river valleys.
The Bigleaf Magnolia is a deciduous tree, which means that it drops it’s leaves in winter and although slow growing, has been know to reach up to 40 feet in height. The leaves are huge, oblong-obovate in shape, green on top and silvery beneath, and often grow up to 30 inches in length. In June the tree bears spectacular, fragrant, creamy white, cup-shaped flowers up to 14 inches wide. However, flowers tend to be only produced when a tree is 12 years or older.
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