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Tree to 30 m, 1 m dbh. Bark smooth greyish brown. Branchlets dull brown and glabrous or with dense, short, brown hairs. Leaves evergreen, thin and leathery, somewhat puckered, 5.5–16 × 2.6–6.5 cm, obovate to oblong or occasionally elliptic, both surfaces glabrous, 9–12 secondary veins on each side of the midrib, margins entire, apex acuminate; petiole slender, 1.5–2.5 cm long, glabrous and without scars; stipules free from the petiole, glabrous or slightly pubescent outside. Flowers on axillary shoots, pale yellow and fragrant, brachyblast 0.3–1.1 cm long and slightly tomentose; tepals six, the outer three obovate to oblong, convex and 3–3.5 cm long, the inner tepals gradually smaller; stamens yellow-orange; gynoecium stipitate with 14 or more carpels, glabrous or slightly hairy. Fruits 3–10 cm long and cylindrical; ripe carpels ovoid to oblong, 0.6–1.5 cm long with a short beak and sparse, inconspicuous lenticels. Flowering March to April, fruiting August to November (China). Chen & Nooteboom 1993, Liu et al. 2004. Distribution CHINA: Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hunan, Jiangxi, Yunnan; VIETNAM. Habitat Mixed evergreen and broadleaved forest between 500 and 1650 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 7b. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration Chen & Nooteboom 1993.
Magnolia chapensis seems to offer the prospect of being a good, fairly hardy tree, with vigorous specimens growing in several parts of the United States. At the JC Raulston Arboretum an individual planted in 2000 is now 5–6 m tall and doing well, although it has yet to flower. In Oregon fast-growing young trees of 4–5 m have produced a few flowers, but have yet to get into their floral stride. They form a good dark green canopy, and do not demand extra iron in the soil to retain this healthy look (S. Hogan, pers. comm. 2007). If the promise of these specimens is fulfilled this lovely tree, with its abundant creamy flowers, should be worthy of wide planting in suitable areas.