Classif.Nat. Ord. Magnolidia. Polyandria polygynia L.
Genus MAGNOLIA. Calix three leaved, six or nine petals, many stamina, pistils many, imbricate on a receptacle oval or oblong, capsules many, united in large cones, bivalve, one or two seeded, seeds fleshy berry like pendulous.
Sp. Magnolia macrophylla, Mx. Branches brittle, medullar: leaves very ample, obovate or oblong, base subcordate, glaucous beneath, six petals oblong obtuse, cone oval.
Description. A small tree from ten to fifty feet high, with few branches and leaves, bark smooth and white, leaves at the end of the branches very large, from a foot to a yard long, very smooth, white beneath, and bright green above, base narrow and cordate, end broader, but acute, margin entire, flowers solitary at the end of the branches, very large, sometimes one foot broad when expanded, petals six, white, with a red spot near the base, cuneate at the base, obovate oblong, obtuse or blunt, stamina and pistils yellow, pistils in a long cone, fruit a cone of a rose colour, ovate, about six inches long.
History. The most wonderful species of the most beautiful genus of American trees. Although excelled in size by the Magnolia grandiflora, it excels in the size of its leaves and flowers, and has the largest leaf among all our trees except the palms. The flowers are also fragrant; they blossom in May and June. It was supposed that this tree was confined to a few districts of North Carolina, but it extends over the Allegheny and Cumberland mountains of Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama. I found it very common on the Rockcastle and Cumberland rivers, and at the Falls, where it forms a prominent feature in the scenery. It is rare in gardens, and highly valued; it requires a rocky and moist soil, grows quick, and begins to blossom when only five feet high.
The genus Magnolia is dedicated to a French botanist. It includes about ten American species, and as many Asiatic: all are handsome, ornamental, and medical. Ours are chiefly found in the Southern States, but the M. glauca extends to New England. They are promiscuously called Laurels, Beaver-wood, Elk-wood, Sweet Bay, Cucumber Tree, Umbrella Tree, &c. and by the Southern Indians Itomico, which means royal tree; they consider it the emblem of peace, as we do the olive. Some are evergreen; all have blossoms and leaves more or less fragrant, an aromatic bark, and a white soft wood of little use, except the M. grandiflora, which has a hard compact wood of a straw colour, useful for plank and timber. All have vernal white flowers, except M. cordata, which has yellow flowers. All our following species are equally medical.
2. M. grandiflora. Large evergreen tree, leaves oval lanceolate, thick, rusty beneath, six petals obovate, cones conical.
3. M. fragrans. Raf. in fl. Lud. 1817. Evergreen tree, leaves oblong, acute at both ends, pale beneath, six to nine petals, obovate, cones oblong, flowers four inches in diameter.
4. M. glauca. Shrubby, not evergreen, leaves elliptic, obtuse, glaucous beneath, nine petals, obovate, cones ovate.
5. M. acuminata. Large tree, not evergreen, leaves oval, acuminate, pubescent beneath, nine obovate petals, cones cylindrical.
6. M. tripetala. Small tree, not evergreen, leaves ample, cuneate, nine oblong petals, three reflexed, cones oblong.
7. M. cordata. Small tree, not evergreen, leaves small, oval, acute, base cordate, submentose beneath, petals nine, lanceolate, acute, yellow, cones cylindric
8. M. auriculata. Small tree, not evergreen, leaves cuneate, base auriculate, green beneath, nine petals, lanceolate, cones oblong, cylindric.
9. M. pyramidata. Large tree, not evergreen, leaves obovate, base sagittate, green beneath, petals and cones oblong.
Properties. The medical parts in the order of their strength, are the bark of the root, bark of the trees, the cones, buds, and leaves. They contain a bitter extract, resin, and camphor. The taste is bitter aromatic, without hardly any astringency. The smell is pleasant, somewhat similar to Laurus, Acorus, and Benzoin, fugacious, and soon lost in the dried bark: chiefly tonic, stimulant, diaphoretic, and stomachic. All the kinds may be used, and are equal to Liriodendron, Cascarilla, Cornus, &c. Extensively employed in the South and by the Indians in fevers and rheumatism. The tincture of the fresh bark and cones is one of the best preparations: it avails in intermittents of an atonic nature, equally to cinchona: also in typhoid fevers, but above all in chronic rheumatism. The cones infused in spirituous liquors are a popular stomachic, and prophylactic against fevers. The powdered bark may be given in doses of a drachm four or five times a day, or in decoctions and infusions; it may be united to the snake roots with advantage. Their use is improper in all inflammatory fevers, and the abuse of their tinctures is hurtful. The bark and cones ought to be collected and become an article of trade. The Liriodendron bark is often substituted as less stimulant. They are equivalent; the Magnolia is preferable in great debility, nervous and rheumatismal atony.
Medical Flora, or Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America, Vol. 2, 1830, was written by C. S. Rafinesque.