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A small deciduous tree said to attain 30 ft in the wild; branchlets reddish brown and silky hairy when young; winter-buds small, fairly densely coated with silky hairs. Leaves (of cultivated plants) narrowly to broadly obovate or elliptic obovate, 4 to 61⁄2 in. long, 13⁄4 to 33⁄4 in. wide, obtuse or shortly and bluntly acuminate at the apex, cuneate at the base, dark green, glabrous and conspicuously net-veined above, the undersurface pale grey-green, with a few short appressed silky hairs on the midrib and main veins; leaf-stalks 5⁄8 to 11⁄4 in. long. Flowers with six petaloid tepals in two whorls and an outer whorl of small, fugitive, sepal-like segments, borne in April on the naked branches. The petaloid segments are white slightly flushed with pink along the midrib, spathulate-oblong, the inner three about 4 in. long, 11⁄2 in. wide, the outer three slightly shorter and narrower; peduncle silky-hairy and remaining so in the fruiting stage. Stamens with pale pink filaments. Fruits described by Wilson as cylindrical, 2 to 3 in. long, 3⁄4 to 1 in. wide.
M. cylindrica was discovered by R. C. Ching on the Wang Shan, Anwhei, China, in 1925, growing in shady ravines at 3,500 to 4,500 ft, and was described from fruiting specimens collected by him. The above description is based mainly (and entirely so far as the flowers are concerned) on material from a plant growing in Mr H. G. Hillier’s garden at Jermyns House, Romsey.
According to information kindly provided by Mr Brian Mulligan, the stock cultivated on the west coast of the United States and most probably in this country also, derives from seeds obtained from the Lushan Botanic Garden, China, by the late Mrs Henry of Gladwyne, Penn., USA, and was further distributed by the University of Washington Arboretum, Seattle.
M. cylindrica is quite hardy in the south of England and flowers freely when only 3 to 4 ft high. It resembles M. denudata in the poise, size and shape of its flowers, but in that species the flowers have nine petal-like segments and no sepaloid whorl. In M. cylindrica there are only six petal-like segments, with an outer whorl of small “sepals” as in M. salicifolia and M. kobus.
M. cylindrica received an Award of Merit on 30 April 1963, when shown from Windsor Great Park.
A seedling raised in 1970 from this species at Trewithen in Cornwall, and given to the National Trust garden at Lanhydrock, first flowered in 1981. It is evidently a hybrid, with M. × veitchii ‘Peter Veitch’ as the most likely pollen-parent. It has been given the clonal name ‘Albatross’ (Kew Magazine, Vol. 2(1), pp. 201-4 and t.27).
The description for this species given by Bean (B648) in fact relates to a clone cultivated by Hillier Nurseries, now believed to be a hybrid (possibly Magnolia cylindrica M. denudata), and named ‘Pegasus’ (Hunt 1998). The true species has since been introduced and is described here.
Tree to 10 m, 0.3 m dbh. Bark smooth, greyish white. Branchlets purplish brown, glabrous or with yellowish appressed hairs when young. Leaves deciduous, papery, 8–15 × 3–9 cm, elliptic to obovate, upper surface dark green, glabrous, lower surface pale green with fine colourless hairs, 8–11 secondary veins on each side of the midrib, margins entire, apex acute to short-acuminate; petiole 0.7–1 cm long with yellowish appressed hairs; stipules densely pubescent, adnate to petiole. Flowers terminal, produced before the leaves, fragrant, white to purplish pink. Tepals nine, the outer three subulate, 2–2.5 cm long, the inner ones broadly spathulate to obovate and 6.5–10 cm long; stamens purple; gynoecium sessile with green carpels. Fruits pendulous, 5–7.5 cm long, cylindrical, pinkish red; ripe carpels woody, tuberculate, the follicles dehiscent with the upper part falling away to reveal the bright red seeds suspended on the central axis – a unique trait in the genus. Flowering May to June (March to April in cultivation), fruiting August to September (China). Chen & Nooteboom 1993, Spongberg 1998, Gardiner 2000, Liu et al. 2004. Distribution CHINA: Anhui, Fujian, Jiangxi, Zhejiang. Habitat Montane forests between 300 and 1700 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 4–5. Conservation status Vulnerable, due to habitat loss, firewood extraction and the collection of floral buds for medicine. Illustration NT485, NT486. Taxonomic note True M. cylindrica has dimorphic tepals, the outer three sepaloid, the remainder petaloid; the supposed hybrids derived from the 1936 introduction to the United States from the Lu-Shan Arboretum and Botanical Garden (of which ‘Pegasus’ is one) have nine petaloid tepals and do not fruit (Hunt 1998, Spongberg 1998). Comparative illustrations are given in Magnolias and their Allies (Hunt 1998).
The dust seems to have settled on the controversy over the identity of Magnolia cylindrica, and the true species is well established in collections throughout North America and Europe. Introductions have principally been through the agency of the seed lists of Chinese botanical gardens, but collections have been made by other expeditions, including vegetative propagations from trees in the Hwangshan, Anhui, collected in 1988 by Peter Bristol, Lawrence Lee and Peter Wharton. The oldest trees in cultivation seem to be two growing in the David C. Lam Asian Garden in Vancouver, from seed collected in Zhejiang and distributed by the Shanghai Botanic Garden in 1980, and now standing 8–10 m tall. The finest tree known in Europe is in Roy Lancaster’s garden in Hampshire and is of the same provenance, although sown in 1984; first flowering in 1990 (Lan-caster 1998), it has grown well ever since, reaching 11 m (24 cm dbh) by December 2006 (R. Lancaster, pers. comm. 2006) and flowering and fruiting prolifically each year. This tree and one grown by John Gallagher that is of similar height have a straight stem with ascending branches. The flowers are smaller than those of ‘Pegasus’, and the latter remains a very desirable garden tree. ‘Good magnolia conditions’ will suit all forms of M. cylindrica; it is interesting, however, that the Anhui grafts mentioned above grow in ‘deep forest conditions’ in Vancouver, but flower well every year (P. Wharton, pers. comm. 2007). Material from these has been distributed commercially by Otto Eisenhut’s nursery in Ticino, Switzerland (Eisenhut 2008).