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Tree to 20 m, 0.5 m dbh. Bark smooth and grey. Branchlets yellowish green or dark brown, glabrous or with a few hairs. Leaves evergreen, thin and leathery, 6.5–18 × 2–5.5 cm, elliptic to oblong or obovate, both surfaces glabrous, 7–17 secondary veins on each side of the midrib, margins entire, apex acute to short-acuminate; petiole 1.5–2 cm long; stipules with a dense covering of brown or grey hairs, free from the petiole. Flowers solitary, on axillary shoots, white to yellow and fragrant, brachyblast 0.7–1.5 cm long with three to six bracts; tepals six (to eight), the outer three broadly obovate to oblong or spathulate, 5–7 cm long, inner tepals 3–6 cm long, broadly elliptic to oblong; stamens yellow with purple filaments; gynoecium stipitate with many green carpels. Fruits 6.5–10 cm long and spicate; ripe carpels ellipsoid or subglobose, dull brown and lenticellate, 1–1.6 cm long, dehiscing along both dorsal and ventral sutures. Flowering February to March, fruiting August to September (China). Chen & Nooteboom 1993, Liu et al. 2004. Distribution CHINA: Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Henan, Hubei, Sichuan, Yunnan; VIETNAM. Habitat Forests between 1000 and 2000 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 8–9. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration Liu et al. 2004.
Magnolia martinii is another species with just a few young plants in cultivation and therefore brings with it the excitement of the unknown, but also a slight whiff of uncertainty. Tom Hudson (pers. comm. 2007) believes that the plants he grows are of botanic garden origin and therefore perhaps of dubious identity – an issue that can only be resolved when they bloom. The flowers should be pale yellow in colour, borne amongst neat, narrow leaves. For Sean Hogan in Oregon plants up to 3 m tall have yet to flower, but in north Devon John Marston has raised seedlings to 2 m in three years, with bud-set apparent for 2008 (Robinson et al. 2008). The first introduction to the United Kingdom was a plant given to Kevin Hughes in 1988 by Roger Warner: this is planted at Spinners Garden, near Lymington, Hampshire, where it is fully hardy, and has been the source of numerous vegetative progeny (K. Hughes, pers. comm. 2008). The species seems to be reasonably tough, with trees in Vancouver being undamaged by –9 °C in November 2006 and suffering only minor damage from heavy snow (P. Wharton, pers. comm. 2007).