I have been fortunate to study Magnolia virginiana throughout the species range, with the exception of the recently discovered population in Cuba. I was charged with the task of creating a germplasm repository, a field provenance evaluation plot and breeding population for this adaptable and horticulturally significant species. So far we have been evaluating the oldest collections for 5 years. We also are trialing plants at the Boone County Arboretum in northern Kentucky. This work is ongoing.
Field studies of this Magnolia virginiana took me to the natural environs of the illegitimate taxon Magnolia virginiana "var. ludoviciana". Despite the argument among botanists of about the taxonomic status of this entity, horticulturists will soon notice the morphological distinctiveness of these collection. I have seen this taxon in western Louisiana (it only occurs in south and west of the Red River, populations to the north and along the Louisiana/Arkansas border are Magnolia virginiana var. autralis) and in eastern Texas. I have also seen the plants growing in cultivation in Aiken, SC which were collected from the westernmost population of this species in Tyler County, Texas. Here are some pictures of the plants in Aiken.
The opening flower bud and foliage of Magnolia virginiana "var. ludoviciana". Note the more rounded leaves of this taxon as compared to Magnolia virginiana var. australis. This is the most commonly described between the two taxa, but there are additional differences as well; The leaves tend to be thinner compared to var. australis, the fruits tend to be much larger than either variety (this is consistent in cultivated plants, and the bark becomes rough and scaly and compared to smooth, or ridged and furrowed in var. australis.
A couple of foliage shots of Magnolia virginiana "var. ludoviciana". Note that the plants are flowering. Photo was taken on August 30, 2008
The fruit of Magnolia virginiana "var. ludoviciana" in Aiken, SC
The fruit of Magnolia virginiana varieties growing in cultivation at The Ohio State University, from left to right; Magnolia virginiana var. virginiana, Magnolia virginiana var. australis, and Magnolia virginiana "var. ludoviciana". These differences are maintained in cultivation.
Here are some photos of the distinctive bark of this species growing at Dodd & Dodd nursery in Semmes, Alabama. This originated from collections in eastern Texas.
Here is the clump of Magnolia virginiana "var. ludoviciana" growing in Aiken, SC. These plants are shrubby, but plants in the wild can be quite tall and reach similar sizes to Magnolia virginiana var. australis in the Florida Panhandle.
The photo below shows what a typical Magnolia virginiana "var. ludoviciana" looks like when the Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris) ecosystem they grow in is properly burned. Note the rounded leaves. This picture was taken in Rapides Parish, Louisiana.
Yours truly with plants of Magnolia virginiana "var. ludoviciana" in Rapides Parish, LA. Note the tree like growth pattern of individuals that have not been ravaged by fire of hurricanes. These plants were growing at the edge of a very special bog...
Magnolia virginiana is often found in the presence of Sarracenia species. In this case it is Sarracenia alata.
A view of the canopy of Magnolia virginiana "var. ludoviciana" in Jasper county, Texas.
For comparison, here are some photos of typical Magnolia virginiana var. australis growing in Escambia and Liberty counties in Florida.
Foliage of typical Magnolia virginiana var. australis
The habit of typical Magnolia virginiana var. australis
The original plant of Magnolia virginiana 'Green Shadow' at Shadow Nurseries, Winchester, Tennessee. Don said that this plant originated among seedlings collected from the historic population in Turtletown, Tennessee (which is also the highest elevation population)
These last two photos are of a yet-to-be introduced cultivar called 'Silver Savage' from Head-Lee Nursery in South Carolina. It is very difficult to propagate! A very beautiful Magnolia virginiana var. australis!