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Magnolia yuyuanensis was treated as synonymous with M. fordiana var. fordiana by Chen & Nooteboom (1993). However, Kumar (2006) resurrected the species, which can be distinguished from M. fordiana using several characters. The branchlets are yellowish brown (vs. reddish brown), the leaf apex is caudate to acuminate (vs. acute), the peduncle is 1.5–2 cm long (vs. 0.5–1 cm), and the outer tepals are greenish and 3.5–4 × 1.8–2 cm (vs. white, 6–7 × 3–4 cm). In addition, M. yuyuanensis is completely glabrous. Kumar 2006. Dick Figlar (pers. comm. 2006) suggests that M. yuyuanensis is more common in cultivation than M. fordiana, and probably more cold-hardy! Distribution CHINA: Anhui, Fujian, Guangdong, Hunan, Jiangxi, Zhejiang. Habitat Rich mesic slopes between 700 and 1200 m asl. This species has almost exactly the same distribution and altitudinal range as M. cylindrica. USDA Hardiness Zone (6–)7. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration Liu et al. 2004; NT476, NT505.
Magnolia yuyuanensis is established in cultivation and commerce throughout the temperate world, but specimens in collections remain rather scarce, and many are labelled M. fordiana. It has been grown at the Hillier Gardens since 1983, the tallest specimen there being 6.7 m in 2008 (A. Coombes, pers. comm. 2008). An unusually old tree donated by J.C. Raulston to the David C. Lam Asian Garden in Vancouver in 1989 is a fine shapely specimen, that now flowers abundantly. Although beautiful, with cream tepals and purple anthers, the flowers are something of a let-down, each lasting only 36 hours and having a disappointing fragrance, but they are produced over several weeks in high summer and do give a good visual display (Wharton 2007). This species performs very much better in Vancouver than the related M. fordiana. A young plant at the JC Raulston Arboretum has flowered at less than a metre high (S. Hogan, pers. comm. 2007), and a plant obtained from New Zealand is growing well at Tregrehan. A distinctive feature is the boat-shape of the leaves, with a pointed tip. As illustrated in Magnolias of China (Liu et al. 2004), the rounded, compact fruits have the appearance of enormous strawberries.