Loblolly Bay – Gordonia lasianthus
Evergreen tree or shrub with showy, large, white, fragrant flowers; narrow, compact crown of upright branches; and shiny, leathery foliage.
Leaves: evergreen; 4-6” wide. Narrowly elliptical or lance-shaped; short-pointed; finely saw toothed; thick and leathery; short-stalked. Shiny dark green, turning red before falling irregularly throughout the year.
Bark: dark red-brown or gray; thick, deeply furrowed into narrow flat ridges.
Flowers: cup-shaped; with 5 large rounded white petals, waxy and silky on outer surface, and with many yellow stamens; fragrant, borne singly on long reddish stalks at leaf bases; bloom in summer.
Fruit: an egg-shaped capsule, pointed, gray, hairy, hard; maturing in autumn.
Habitat: wet soil of bays and edges of swamps, also in sandhills; with various hardwoods and conifers. Range: E. North Carolina south to central Florida and west to S. Mississippi.
The bark was once used locally for tanning leather. The Latin species names means “hairy-flowered.”