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Julian Sutton (2022)
Sutton, J. (2022), 'Magnolia fulva' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.
Tree to 15 m. Bark grey-brown. Older branchlets dark brown, young branchlets and buds yellow-brown tomentose. Leaves evergreen, leathery and somewhat rigid; leaf blade 13–24 × 4.5–12 cm, elliptic to ovate-elliptic, upper surface dark green, glabrous or with some appressed hairs at first, lower surface glaucous with long brown or rufous hairs or glabrous, 7–13 secondary veins on each side of the midrib; base obtuse, apex acute to short-acuminate; petiole robust, 1.5–4.5 cm, with yellow-brown hairs; stipules with long silky hairs outside, leathery and free from the petiole; stipular scar ~¼ length of petiole (var. fulva). Flowers 4–5 cm across, on axillary shoots, fragrant, white to yellow, brachyblast 2–2.2 cm long with two to three tomentose bracts; tepals 9–12(–14), fleshy, obovate to elliptic and 4.4–5.3 cm long, the inner tepals slightly smaller than the outer three; stamens yellowish brown; gynoecium stipitate with ~152 densely golden yellow pubescent carpels. Fruits spicate; ripe carpels ovoid, woody, 1–1.5 cm, short-beaked. Flowering March, fruiting November (China). (Xia, Liu & Nooteboom 2008; Chen & Nooteboom 1993).
Distribution China Yunnan Vietnam
Habitat Forests on limestone, 1690–1950 m.
USDA Hardiness Zone 9
RHS Hardiness Rating H3
Conservation status Data deficient (DD)
Little known in cultivation, the delineation of this species has proved troublesome. Plants described here as var. calcicola have sometimes been treated as a full species (Michelia calcicola C.Y. Wu ex Y.W. Law & Y.F. Wu), or as Magnolia ingrata (B.L. Chen & S.C. Yang) Figlar; they are placed in M. fulva by Flora of China (Xia, Liu & Nooteboom 2008), which recognizes no varieties within the species.
The type var. fulva (with stipules adnate to petioles) is apparently very rare in cultivation. A young plant at Quarryhill Botanical Garden, California, grown from Yunnanese seed in 1999, seems to belong here. A specimen at Tregrehan, Cornwall is yet to flower in the open garden (T. Hudson pers. comm. 2022).
Michelia calcicola C.Y. Wu ex Y.W. Law & Y.F. Wu
Stipules free from the petiole.
RHS Hardiness Rating: H3
USDA Hardiness Zone: 8b-9
Taxonomic note Some confusion has arisen over the erroneous use in Kunming Botanical Garden and in literature (for example Hunt 1998) of the name Michelia xanthantha for this plant. Dick Figlar writes (pers. comm. 2007): ‘The true Magnolia xanthantha (C.Y. Wu ex Y.W. Law) Figlar has glabrous leaves and buds with yellowish flowers of only six tepals. This is different from the very hairy leaves, buds, and stems of M. fulva var. calcicola, which also has nine-tepalled flowers. Sima Yongkang has not been able to find a living plant of the M. xanthantha but he believes that it probably belongs with M. martinii whose description it closely resembles. Whatever it is, it is not in cultivation outside of China, and may not even be in cultivation there!’
An exciting, if rather tender plant that will need further observation to ascertain its garden merits, but on early acquaintance seems to promise something special. It combines rather glaucous leaves with golden indumentum and yellow flowers, which have been produced in its fifth year from seed. At first the growth is rather inelegant and sparse, but older specimens begin to thicken up (Hogan 2008). Although it has survived –7°C in Portland, OR, as young plants, its ultimate hardiness is not known, but as it comes from further north than var. fulva it is likely to be somewhat more hardy (R. Figlar, pers. comm. 2007). At Tregrehan, Cornwall, it flowers every year, even though smaller than the specimen of var. fulva which has not (T. Hudson, pers. comm. 2022).