I love this tree--especially at this time of year.
What makes this tree so attractive and desirable is that it will continue to have blooms periodically for 6 or more weeks after it begins flowering, and then the flowers turn to bright red fruits that are attractive to birds and squirrels. The leaves are a shiny green with a gray tint underneath. The tree is semi-evergreen, meaning that if our winters aren't too severe some of the leaves will remain throughout the winter.
A landscaper recommended it to me when we first moved here and were planning the landscape for the front of our house. I had never seen one before--or at least not noticed--until he brought it to my attention. He suggested planting it near the edge of the house and said it would only get about 15 feet tall. On that he was mistaken. It is already about 20 feet high so I wish we had planted it a little farther away from the house. I recently discovered that in Florida, where these trees are called swamp magnolias, because they prefer moist acid soil, they can grow to 90 feet. Since I took the landscaper's advice and let him plant it near the house, I was relieved to see in a description I was reading that they rarely get above 30 feet in the north. That's still larger than I wanted in the space where it is planted, but it is so beautiful I don't think I could ever cut it down.
If you are looking for a new tree to add to your landscaping, I highly recommend sweetbay magnolia.