Leaves are oblong, dark green and shiny above, whitish and hairy below; bark is light gray and smooth. Its wood is of little commercial value. It is found on moist soil and in swamps and grows as a large shrub to medium-sized, multi-stemmed tree.
Magnolia virginiana is a 10'-20' tall deciduous or evergreen tree, 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 is semi-evergreen or deciduous further north. The leaves have a medium to dark green glossy upper surface with a silvery, frosted appearance underneath giving it a bi-colored effect in the breeze. The bark is smooth and gray, with the inner bark mildly scented, the scent reminiscent of the bay laurel spice.
Flowers open continuously from late May throughout June, and sporadically thereafter. They are creamy white, 2"-3" diameter and very elegantly shaped with 6-15 petal-like tepals. The flowers carry a very strong vanilla scent that can sometimes be noticed several hundred yards away
The fruit is a fused aggregate of follicles, 1-2 in. long. They are pinkish-red when mature and split open in late summer to release seeds. The 1/3 in. long black seeds are covered by a thin, fleshy red coat which makes it attractive to many birds. The birds swallow the seeds, digest the red coating, and disperse the seeds in their droppings.