Evergreen 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 N
Habitat Evergreen broad-leaved forests; 500–1700 m.
USDA Hardiness Zone 7b-9
RHS Hardiness Rating H4
Conservation status Least concern (LC)
While still highly experimental, Magnolia chapensis seems to offer the prospect of being a good, fairly hardy tree, with a few vigorous young specimens growing in milder parts of the United States. At the JC Raulston Arboretum an individual planted in 2000 was 5–6 m tall by 2008, although it had yet to flower (Grimshaw & Bayton 2009). In Oregon fast-growing young trees produced a few flowers having reached 4–5 m, but had 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). Publicly accessible specimens in Oregon include a 1998 accession at the Hoyt Arboretum, Portland (Hoyt Arboretum 2021). In Britain it is recorded from a private Suffolk garden (6 m × 31 cm, 2016 – Tree Register 2021) and Tregrehan, Cornwall (4 m × 9 cm, 2014), where it flowers annually (T. Hudson pers. comm. 2022). If the promise of these specimens is fulfilled this lovely species, grown as a street tree in southern Sichuan (Wharton 2007), with its abundant light yellow flowers, should be worthy of wide planting where climate allows.