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Tree to 28 m, 1 m dbh. Bark smooth and grey. Branchlets slender and brown to purplish brown to purplish black; initially with greyish white or yellowish brown hairs, though quickly glabrous. Leaves evergreen, thin and leathery, 6–14.5(–17) × 1–4.5(–5) cm, narrowly elliptic to ovate or lanceolate, upper surface dark green and glossy with sparse, clear hairs particularly on the midrib, lower surface glaucous or not, with sparse, rather long, dark or clear hairs, 8–14 secondary veins on each side of the midrib, margins entire, apex acute to acuminate; petiole 0.9–2.5 cm long and pubescent; stipules adnate to the petiole and densely pubescent. Flowers on axillary shoots, white and fragrant, brachyblast 0.3–0.8 cm long with three (to four) bracts; tepals 12–15, spathulate to broadly obovate or oblanceolate, constricted at the base and 2.5–3.5 cm long; stamens yellow; gynoecium stipitate. Fruits 2.5–6 cm long and cylindrical or twisted; ripe carpels subglobose, brown and lenticellate, 0.7–2 cm long and beaked. Flowering February to June, fruiting July to October (China). Chen & Nooteboom 1993, Liu et al. 2004. Distribution CHINA: Guangxi, Guizhou, Hubei, Jiangxi, Sichuan, Yunnan; LAOS; MYANMAR; THAILAND; VIETNAM. Habitat Forests between 800 and 2700 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 7b. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration Liu et al. 2004; NT489.
Four large trees at Caerhays Castle, Cornwall have been identified as Magnolia floribunda by Owen Johnson, the largest being 20 m tall with a trunk diameter of 103 cm at 50 cm above the ground (TROBI). The others are 16 m tall or more, and all presumably date from an introduction before World War II. With this impressive record of survival and growth it would seem well worth trying it in suitable mild sites throughout maritime Europe and along the American West Coast, as well as in the milder parts of the southeastern United States. At Tregrehan plants of Vietnamese origin are building up steadily and getting better each year, having now reached about 4 m (T. Hudson, pers. comm. 2007), while in Oregon trees of 5–6 m are beginning to flower sparsely (S. Hogan, pers. comm. 2007). A collection made by Dan Hinkley (DJHC 548) in northwest Yunnan in 1996 is proving vigorous in Vancouver (Wharton 2007) and was not affected by –9 °C in November 2006, when its branches bowed but did not break under a deep load of wet snow (P. Wharton, pers. comm. 2007). The glaucous underside of the leaves in some forms is very attractive, while the silky new growth makes this a very tactile tree. Young specimens have an open, airy appearance and form a pyramidal shape, but become denser and more rounded with age (Hogan 2008).