Magnolias are entwined with the history of the south. Perhaps the one reaching back the farthest into time is a southern magnolia that still grows in what today is Washington State Park in Washington, Arkansas. According to Famous and Historic Trees by Charles E. Randall and Henry Clepper, this tree was planted near an important road junction in 1839 by Gen. Grandison D. Royston. It was near a blacksmith shop where Jim Bowie fashioned his famous knife.
Some call it the Jones Magnolia because two unrelated boys were born to Jones families the same year the tree was planted. Both became Colonels in the Confederate army and one, Daniel W. Jones, eventually became Governor of Arkansas. The other, James K. Jones, became a U.S. Senator. Both laid claim to being the namesake of the tree and James finally resolved the good-natured debate by purchasing the land the tree stood on and making his home there for over 30 years.
Another historic specimen grows on the White House grounds. It was transplanted by President Andrew Jackson from his home in Nashville, Tennessee, in memory of his beloved wife Rachel.
The name magnolia honors a French botanist, Pierre Magnol, who admired the tree so much that he transplanted it to Europe 300 years ago.