The state flower of Louisiana is synonymous with the South, the Magnolia, specifically the southern magnolia or Magnolia Grandiflora. There are actually many types of Magnolia, it is in a large subfamily of the family Magnoliaceae, called Magnolioideae. There are 210 different kinds of Magnolia native to South America, Southwest and East Asia, the West Indies, Central America, and the eastern parts of North America. Magnolias are a very ancient flowering tree. These evergreen trees are believed to have evolved before bees existed, and are the earliest known type of flowering plants, dating back to about 130 million years ago.
The Southern Magnolia is a very popular horticultural tree and can be seen all over the American South. It has a very large, showy white bloom with a strong fragrance and large waxy leaves. The large red seeds that Southern Magnolia produces are actually an aggregate fruit, just like a blackberry, the magnolia fruits are dry, rather than fleshy and juicy like a berry, and are used as food by many native animals like songbirds, Squirrels, opossum, quail and wild turkeys. The pollen is rich and high in protein and attracts beetles who eat it and pollenate the trees in the process. Beetles are believed to have been the original pollinators of these ancient trees.
The leaves of Southern Magnolias are a popular cut greenery, especially for Christmas designs, and hold up well once cut from the tree. The flowers, on the other hand, do not last long once cut and are not commonly sold as a cut flower. They are better enjoyed on the tree as nature intended.