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Loblolly Bay, Gordonia lasianthus

Q: Please identify this wild tree with blossoms of 5 creamy white petals, and tiny blossom berries.

Q:   I ‘m going crazy trying to identify a tree that is blooming in Nassau County right now.  The tree is wild and has blossoms of 5 creamy white petals, and tiny blossom berries.

A:  The tree you are referring to is probably the Loblolly Bay, Gordonia lasianthus. Loblolly Bays are native to America and found throughout the southern part of the United States.  This tree is an evergreen reaching heights up sixty feet but spreads only to about 15 feet.  Because of the small spreading growth of this tree it would be a good choice for our smaller landscapes in urban areas.  This tree grows in all light conditions, prefers acidic soil and can tolerate some occasional flooding.  If it is grown in full sun it will require moderate irrigation to keep soil moist.  This additional moisture requirement is not usually a problem if Loblolly Bay is sharing space with lawn grass. Loblolly Bay would be a good choice for boggy areas although it is not salt tolerant. It requires little or no pruning to maintain a central, strong trunk leader.  It can be propagated by seeds or cuttings.  Borers can weaken the tree and occasionally aphids may be a problem but it has no disease issues. Gordonia lasianthus ‘Varigata’ is a variegated cultivar of Loblolly Bay with green and white leaves and white flowers.