Green Shadow sweetbay magnolia was selected for improved hardiness and leaf retention, but it also features the fragrant white blooms of the species during a long flowering period. In the more southern parts of its range, sweetbay magnolia is evergreen but it may lose all or most of its leaves during the winters in the Chicagoland area. This species is one of the few magnolias that will tolerate swampy conditions.
Members of the genus Magnolia are known for the stunning beauty of their usually large flowers, which emerge prior to the foliage in spring, and are often fragrant. While shades of pink are the most common bloom color, the Magnolia palette also includes white, yellows and purples. Another dominant feature is a prominent fruiting body of small follicles forming a cone-like shape. The species range from small trees to very large trees and shrubs.
Magnolias are an ancient genus that appeared before bees; early pollinators are believed to have been beetles. They are native to eastern and southeastern Asia and eastern North America, Central and South America; most are not hardy in the Chicago region. Buds and blooms of the magnolias that do thrive here are often subject to damage from cold spring nights. The genus includes of 300 species and numerous hybrids and cultivars. The Chicago Botanic Garden's collection includes almost 60 varieties of magnolia and more than 150 plants.