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A deciduous tree 20 to 50 ft high, its young shoots at first silky downy, yellowish grey. Leaves obovate, rounded at the apex, tapered at the base; 14 to 21 in. long, 5 to 10 in. wide, glabrous and rather pale green above, glaucous and clothed with pale fine down beneath; lateral veins twenty to thirty, prominent beneath; stalk 1 to 11⁄2 in. long. Flower white, fragrant, cupped, 6 to 8 in. across, produced in early summer at the end of the leafy young growth; flower-stalk thick and downy. Sepals and petals nine to twelve, fleshy, up to 4 in. long and 11⁄2 in. wide; stamens numerous, red. Fruits oblong to egg-shaped, flat at the top, 4 to 5 in. high, 21⁄2 in. wide.
Native of W. Hupeh, China; discovered by Henry about 1885, introduced by Wilson in 1900. At first it was confused with the beautiful M. hypoleuca, with which it is almost identical in foliage. It differs in the yellowish-grey young shoots (purplish in hypoleuca) and flat-topped fruit. It is not so large a tree although equally beautiful in flower and noble in leaf. It is cultivated in W. China for its bark and flower-buds, which yield a drug valued by the Chinese for the medicinal properties. It is quite hardy. As it was sent out by Messrs Veitch as the “Chinese hypoleuca”, it no doubt exists unrecognised in some gardens under that name.
For a table of comparisons between this species and M. hypoleuca, see Treseder, op. cit., pp. 54-5.
specimens: Borde Hill, Sussex, North Park Garden, 52 × 41⁄2 ft (1974); Caerhays, Cornwall, 46 × 31⁄2 ft (1971); Birr Castle, Co. Offaly, Eire, 56 × 41⁄4 ft (1985).