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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 between 1600 and 1900 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 8–9. Conservation status Not evaluated. Taxonomic note This species is treated as a synonym of M. doltsopa by Chen & Nooteboom (1993).
Magnolia opipara is still little known in cultivation, but is established in western North America. At Quarryhill a seedling planted in 2000 had achieved 6–7 m when observed in 2004, forming a narrow, upright young tree, although it has not yet flowered (H. Higson, pers. comm. 2008). Unlike many other evergreen magnolias at Quarryhill, it has not scorched in the intense sunlight and dry heat there. Two clones originating from Kunming Botanical Garden are grown by Sean Hogan, who appreciates them for their very glaucous, almost blue leaf undersides. After five years of growth they have achieved 4 m but have not yet flowered – but neither have they suffered any frost damage in that time (S. Hogan, pers. comm. 2007).