What is Gordonia?

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  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 01 February 2019
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Gordonia is a genus of flowering evergreen trees. There are approximately 40 individual species of Gordonia in total, most of which are found in southeast Asia, parts of South America, and the southeastern region of the United States. These trees flourish in moist conditions, and thus are most commonly found in swamps and marshes as well as in rain forests. The genus is characterized by its impressive height, its attractive white flowers, and its deep green leaves, and is often cultivated for decorative purposes.

While a significant proportion of the approximately 40 known species of Gordonia is found in Asia, the species most familiar to those living in the United States is Gordonia lasianthus, more commonly known as Loblolly-bay. With its low threshold for dry weather conditions, this tree is a familiar sight in moist landscapes such as the swamps of Florida and the coastal areas of states such as Louisiana, Alabama, and South Carolina. The Loblolly-bay’s shallow roots and high tolerance for acidic soil also contribute to its success in these typically sandy regions.

All species of Gordonia tree are distinguished by their soaring height as well as their visually pleasing foliage. Mature trees can reach a height of up to 70 feet (about 21.34 meters). By comparison, the trees’ trunks tend to be fairly narrow, growing to a diameter of approximately 1.5 feet (45.72 centimeters). As a consequence, the trees can take on an appearance that is at once towering and delicate.


The leaves as well as the flowers of the Gordonia tree are considered by many to be highly attractive. Its dark green leaves are tough and glossy. They are oval in shape, with sharply tapered ends. While these leaves vary in size from species to species, most are between 3 and 7 inches (about 7.62 and 17.78 cm) in length.

Gordonia flowers typically consist of five soft, white petals which surround a cluster of short, golden stamens. These flowers usually measure between 1.5 and 5 inches (about 3.81 and 12.7 centimeters) in diameter. They generally bloom during the summer months.

The wood of the Gordonia tree is sometimes used in decorative carpentry, such as cabinet making. Chemicals known as tannins found in the tree’s bark are sometimes also used in preparing leather goods for commercial use. Due to the tree’s attractive appearance, striking stature, and consistent greenness, however, it is most commonly cultivated for ornamental purposes.



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