Tree to 16 m, 0.5 m dbh. Branchlets brown, glabrous or pubescent with greyish yellow lenticels. Leaves evergreen, thin and leathery, 20–27 × 7–11 cm, obovate, upper surface glossy green and glabrous or with greyish white pubescence, lower surface glaucous with greyish white pubescence, margins entire, apex acute; stipules adnate to the petiole. Flowers solitary, on axillary shoots, yellow-white and fragrant; tepals eight, the outer three obovate and ~3.8 cm long, inner tepals oblanceolate; gynoecium stipitate with many pilose carpels. Fruits 11–15 cm long and spicate; ripe carpels ovoid, lenticellate and with a short beak. Flowering April, fruiting September to October (China). (Liu et al. 2004).
Distribution China Yunnan
Habitat Evergreen broadleaved forests, 1600–1900 m.
USDA Hardiness Zone 8-9
RHS Hardiness Rating H3
Conservation status Data deficient (DD)
Magnolia opipara is still little known in cultivation, but is established in western North America. Close to M. doltsopa, but differing in the grey-white pubescent lower leaf surface, it was treated as a synonym of M. doltsopa by Chen & Nooteboom (1993), although most workers continue to recognize it. At Quarryhill Botanical Garden, CA, a seedling planted in 2000 had achieved 6–7 m by only 2004, forming a narrow, upright young tree, although by 2008 it had still not flowered (H. Higson, pers. comm.). Unlike many other evergreen magnolias at Quarryhill, it was not scorched in the intense sunlight and dry heat there. Two clones originating from Kunming Botanical Garden are grown in Oregon by Sean Hogan, who appreciates them for their very glaucous, almost blue leaf undersides. After five years of growth they had achieved 4 m without flowering – but neither did they suffer any frost damage in that time (S. Hogan, pers. comm. 2007). In Europe, M. opipara has been offered commercially in a small way in Belgium (Botanic Treasures 2020); there is a young plant from this source at Tregrehan, Cornwall (T. Hudson pers. comm. 2022).