The Mighty Magnolia

The Mighty Magnolia


A sweet Southern icon has deep roots on Jekyll

By Candice Dyer

The magnolia, with its large, showy blossoms and tough, leathery leaves, is not unique to this region. It grows throughout Asia, too, and in other parts of the U.S. But perhaps no other tree is as closely identified with gracious Southern living as this grand old evergreen.

“Its blossoms have a powerful fragrance, which you’ll see if you cut them and use them for decoration in your home,” says Cliff Gawron, the Jekyll Island Authority’s director of landscaping and planning.

Jekyll offers several spots for enjoying the trees, Gawron says, including the Jekyll Island Campground, the Crane Bicycle Path, and the shady avenue leading to Indian Mound Cottage. “Those were planted by [William] Rockefeller in 1918,” Gawron says of the several magnolias on the path, “so they date back to the Club Era.”

Named for French botanist Pierre Magnol, the trees’ fruiting follicles produce red berries that are consumed and then scattered by birds. The trees also are noted for their often majestic height. “Some can grow to 80 feet, as you can see in our historic district,” Gawron says.

This article first appeared in Volume 4 Number 2 of 31•81, the Magazine of Jekyll Island.

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