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Tree to 20 m, 0.9 m dbh. Bark dull brown. Branchlets brown or purplish black with short appressed or spreading undulate or curly hairs. Leaves evergreen, papery or thin and leathery, (6–)11–24(–30) × (2.5–)3.5–6.5(–8.5) cm, elliptic, upper surface dark green and glabrous or with scattered undulate hairs particularly on the midrib, lower surface pale green with a dense covering of long brown or clear hairs, almost velvety, 11–23(–28) secondary veins on each side of the midrib, margins entire, apex acute to acuminate; petiole 0.9–2.3 cm long and densely pubescent; stipules with dense pubescence on the outside, adnate to the petiole. Flowers solitary, on axillary shoots, yellowish white and very fragrant, brachyblast 0.4–1.7 cm long with three pubescent bracts; tepals 10–12(–13), spathulate to elliptic and clawed at the base, 2.2–5.5 cm long; gynoecium stipitate with ~35 densely pubescent carpels. Fruits 3.5–13 cm long and oblong; ripe carpels ovoid to ellipsoid, dull brown and densely lenticellate, 0.7–2.5 cm long. Flowering May to June, fruiting August to September (China). Chen & Nooteboom 1993, Liu et al. 2004. Distribution BHUTAN; CHINA: southern Xizang, northwest Yunnan; NEPAL. Habitat Mixed forests between 1500 and 2300 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 8–9. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration Liu et al. 2004.
Magnolia lanuginosa is in cultivation in the western United States and in Cornwall but has yet to make much impact, principally because it is rather slow to flower, reaching about 6 m before it does so in Oregon (S. Hogan, pers. comm. 2007). It seems to be related to M. maudiae, but the creamy flowers appear later in spring. At Tregrehan it is growing well from a collection by Keith Rushforth made at 2400 m in Bhutan in the early 1990s (KR 1784). It is ‘reasonably hardy’ there but seems to be missing enough light to flower freely (Hudson 2004) – illustrating the difficulties in siting such trees, that need shelter but also good light. The densely pubescent long, pointed leaves are attractive.