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What Is the State Tree of Mississippi? Uses, Facts, & FAQ

Oak Tree

Trees grow and thrive in specific environmental conditions. In the United States, certain tree species are indigenous to specific states and therefore designated as the official state trees for the region. A state tree is usually linked to its uses, history, and how much the lumbering industry is important to the economy of the state. In Mississippi, the Magnolia tree is the designated state tree.

Mississippi is one of the most populous states in the United States. When the state was selecting its emblem and the state tree, they nominated four trees: pine, oak, dogwood, and magnolia.

However, the magnolia tree received the largest support and was voted in by the legislature as the official state tree. Although the state did not select a specific magnolia species, the Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) is recognized as the official one. This is why Mississippi earned the nickname “The Magnolia State,” named after its most prominent natural feature.

In this article, we look at the Magnolia tree in detail, its characteristics, uses, and how it was decided as the state tree of Mississippi.

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How Was It Decided?

As mentioned previously, states choose their designated trees based on factors such as landmarks, natural treasures, cultural heritage, and the attributes of the symbol. So, in 1935, the then Director of Forestry started a movement to select a tree that would best define Mississippi.

In his quest, he gathered different school-going children in the state to choose the most appropriate tree species to serve as the state’s emblem through nominations and elections. The children were given four nominees: magnolia, pine, oak, and dogwood. These four trees are the most widespread species in Mississippi. However, when the children cast their ballot, the magnolia tree received overwhelming support and emerged the winner.

On April 1, 1938, the magnolia tree was officially declared the state tree of Mississippi.  Magnolia tree flowers were also selected as the official state flower to be used as the official emblem of Mississippi. The law that declares the magnolia tree as the state’s official tree can be found in the Mississippi Code, Title 3, and Chapter 3. Section 9.

pink magnolia tree flower blossoming
Image Credit: MabelAmber, Pixabay

Why the Southern Magnolia Tree Was Chosen

The Magnolia tree has had major symbolism in the US. The history of the tree can be traced back to the early 1800s. In fact, the oldest trees on the white house lawn are two southern magnolias. The trees were planted between 1829 and 1837 by Andrew Jackson as a tribute to his late wife Rachael who died 2 weeks after he won the elections.

Even today, the tree is still revered by botanists and residents of the state of Mississippi for its splendid blooms. Also called the bull-bay, big-laurel, or evergreen magnolia, the tree is valued for its waxy, fragrant, and creamy white blossoms as well as the leathery, shiny leaves.

How to Identify the Southern Magnolia Tree Plant

If you are a resident of Mississippi State, then identifying the magnolia plant should be relatively easy. The tree is featured on billboards, school emblems, business logos, and governmental institutions. However, it can be difficult to identify it if you have never encountered the plant before. Moreover, there are more than 210 Magnolia varieties native to Eastern Asia and Southern and Central America.

Since the Magnolia plant is a state symbol, identifying it is the first step in giving it the care and respect you would expect in a state symbol. There are many ways to identify a tree species. These include the color and shape of the flowers and leaves, size, and bark texture among others.

How to identify the Souther Magnolia Tree Plant:
  • Leaf: The leaves of a magnolia tree measure about 5–8 inches long and can either be simple, pinnately veined, or alternate. The leaves are usually oval and remain evergreen throughout most seasons. They also feature a waxy or shiny surface.
  • Flower: The most interesting and appealing part of a magnolia plant is the flowers, which are incredibly large and visually striking with distinct petal segments. They can take on various shapes, including a star or bowl shape, and can grow up to 2 inches wide. These flowers bloom in a variety of colors including purple, pink, white and yellow. They also have several stamens on a long spiral stem. White and pink are the most common magnolia flowers in Mississippi.
  • Fruit and Seeds: The fruits of a magnolia tree are usually green when they form, cylindrical, and typically 3–5 inches long. When they mature and ripen, mostly from October to November, they change from green to red. Inside, you will find ½-inch-long, dark red seeds, which grow in cone-like hunches. The seeds extend from pod-like containers when ripe, providing food for local birds and animals.
  • Bark: The bark of a magnolia tree is thin, smooth, and covers a cork layer. When the plant is young, it starts with a brown or gray color. As it ages, it becomes scalier and rougher. It is heat-resistant, which makes it hard to burn. The magnolia bark is said to have many healing properties and has had applications as a home remedy to diseases such as obesity, osteoporosis, and diabetes. It also aids in boosting the immune system.
  • Height: The state tree of Mississippi can grow up to 80 feet (24.38 meters) in ideal conditions. In fact, the tallest southern magnolia tree species in the US is 122 feet (37.18 meters). This extremely tall tree was discovered in Mississippi, adding to their pride as a state. The tree was even declared a National Champion by the American Forestry association.
  • Habitat: The medium-sized and moderately fast-growing magnolia tree thrives on rich, well-drained, and moist soil. The soil is present in the low uplands and coastal plains of the Southwestern United states.
white magnolia tree flower
Image Credit: Ralphs_Fotos, Pixabay

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What Are the Uses of Magnolia Trees?

1. Food for Local Birds and Wildlife

The Mississippi state tree is not only aesthetically pleasing but also provides nourishment to local wildlife who consume the seeds. Magnolia tree seeds mature in late fall or early winter and typically have a red fleshy covering and cone-like structures.

When fully mature, the seeds measure between a quarter of an inch or half an inch and provide a healthy food source.  The magnolia seeds attract birds and other wildlife native to the state of Mississippi.

2. Ornamental plant

white magnolia tree flower blooming
Image Credit: djacoby, Pixabay

The tree features large, lustrous, and evergreen foliage that makes the tree a desirable ornamental plant. It also has large fragrant white flowers which produce a sweet scent that is powerful enough to perfume a whole garden. These flowers are in abundance in the southern and northern areas of Mississippi.

3. Source of Timber

The medium-sized and fast-growing magnolia tree thrives on rich, well-draining, and moist soil. Magnolia trees can grow next to other hardwood species and are often commercially sold as magnolia lumber. The timber is heavy and hard, making it ideal for making pallets, furniture, and veneer.

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Is It Illegal to Cut Down Magnolia Trees in the State of Mississippi?

This is one of the most common questions among residents of Mississippi. Either way, each state has different restrictions and regulations that govern which trees can be cut down and when they can be cut down.

However, cutting down magnolia trees or any other hardwood tree like live oaks is not illegal in the state of Mississippi. You just need to visit the town clerk’s office to get permits. This is because trees of certain ages and sizes are usually protected by city ordinances.

trees & plants divider Conclusion

Every state in the US has a specific plant species that is designated as the official state tree. These trees are usually indigenous to a specific state and often represent the cultural heritage, natural resources, and economic benefits to the state residents.

In Mississippi, the Southern Magnolia species is the official state tree. It is one of the most widespread species in the state. It was officially declared a state tree back in 1938 after school children voted for it through the ballot to represent their beautiful state. This is why Mississippi earned the moniker the Magnolia State.

Southern magnolia trees are valued for their creamy white blossoms and sweet scents. The tree is also fast growing and is hard enough for various uses in the timber industry. The seeds of the plants also provide nourishment to the birds and wildlife. The tree is easy to identify, especially from the unique and differently colored flowers. The leaves are always evergreen and have a shiny, waxy surface.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: Kevan Craft, Pixabay


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