The tree commonly known in its native area as Magnolia is properly known as Magnolia grandiflora. The Magnolia genus is quite large, containing about 210 different recognized and classified species. The range of the Magnolia genus is also large, with a main center in east and south-east Asia and a secondary center in eastern North America, Central America, the West Indies, as well as having some species represented in South America.
The specific range of M. grandiflora however is much more limited. The range extends from eastern North Carolina, south along the Atlantic Coast to the Peace River in central Florida, then westward through roughly the southern half of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, and across Louisiana into southeast Texas. M. grandiflora is most prevalent in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas.
M. grandiflora has been planted as an ornamental as far north as Pennsylvania in a swath northward from its native areas through Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, and Maryland. M. grandiflora has also be introduced into Puerto Rico. While M. grandiflora can be grown on the west coast of the United States, its growth is considerably slowed due to the cooler weather. It also is grown in Mexico, Central, and South America where the climate is suitable.
While I have written about working with M. grandiflora, in the past, I did not include all the usual details. This post corrects those earlier omissions.
For the sake of simplicity, I will refer to M. grandiflora from this point forward simply as Magnolia.
Magnolia features a very wide band of sapwood that is of a creamy white to grayish color. The much more narrow heartwood ranges in color from a medium to a dark brown. It is not uncommon for the heartwood to feature green, purple, or even black streaks.
The grain of Magnolia is straight. The texture is uniform and described as medium to fine. Once properly surfaced, Magnolia shows a moderate natural luster.
The endgrain of Magnolia presents as diffuse and porous. The pores are small and in so specific arrangement. The growth rings are distinct and the rays are visible to the naked eye.
Magnolia is rated a non-durable to perishable in terms of resistance to decay. Magnolia is also quite susceptible to insect attack.
In general, Magnolia is considered easy to work with both hand and machine power tools.
Magnolia is reported to glue, stain, and otherwise finish quite well.
Of most relevance for our purposes, Magnolia is also an excellent turning wood, if fairly soft.
Magnolia is not reported to have any specific odor when being worked green or dry.
Pricing and Availability
Some sources claim that Magnolia is readily available and in the low end of the price range within its natural area, but that it is difficult to find and/or expensive outside of its natural area. While I agree that Magnolia wood can be obtained cheaply, compared to many other woods, I don’t necessarily find it easy to obtain.
In this blog, I almost always recommend several vendors with whom I have done considerable business and in whom I have great confidence. These vendors are: West Penn Hardwoods, Bell Forest Products, NC Wood, Got Wood?, and WoodTurningz of Indiana.
However, of these fine vendors only Got Wood? currently sells Magnolia turning stock in three sizes, ranging from 8” x 2” up to 10” x 3”, all cut round. The most expensive piece sell for a bargain price of $17.71.
I find that this rather clearly indicates limited availability even within the natural range of the wood (I am located in northwestern Georgia).