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Tree to 40 m, 1 m dbh. Branchlets pale green and glabrous with distinctive bamboo-like internodes. Leaves evergreen, thin and leathery, 6.5–15 × 2–5 cm, ovate to oblong or elliptic, leaves glabrous on both surfaces, pinkish red when immature, 9–13 secondary veins on each side of the midrib, margins entire, apex short-acuminate; petiole 1.5–2.5 cm long; stipules free from the petiole. Flowers terminal and andro dioecious; staminate flowers white with 9–12 tepals, outer three tepals thin, obovate and ~4 × ~2 cm, inner tepals fleshy and obovate to spathulate, stamens ~30 with red filaments; hermaphrodite flowers similar to staminate flowers, gynoecium sessile with 10–20 green carpels. Fruits reddish pink, ~6 cm long, ellipsoid to ovoid; ripe carpels rhomboid and united before maturity, dehiscing along the dorsal suture. Flowering April to May, fruiting September to October (China). Liu et al. 2004. Distribution CHINA: northern Guangxi, southeast Yunnan; VIETNAM. Habitat Evergreen broadleaved forest between 1200 and 1500 m asl. USDA Hardiness Zone 9. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration Liu et al. 2004. Taxonomic note Chen & Nooteboom (1993) treat this species as a synonym of Magnolia nitida, but like M. lotungensis it is a distinct hexaploid (Chen et al. 2000) (see p. 496). See Magnolia laevifolia (p. 494) for commentary on specific name yunnanensis.
Enthusiasts such as Tom Hudson and Sean Hogan (pers. comms. 2007) are impressed by Magnolia yunnanensis, admiring it for its elegant narrow foliage and pinkish red new growth (‘bronzy orange to lipstick crimson’ according to Peter Wharton), as well as a more gracile habit than its relatives M. lotungensis and M. nitida, but with the potential for forming a big vigorous tree. It is growing well for both but has yet to flower at Tregrehan, where the largest trees are 4 m tall; in Oregon a tree of 5 m has so far produced one flower. It is also flourishing in Vancouver, and its prospects as a reasonably hardy tree for the milder parts of our area seem good (Wharton 2007), although it is probably less hardy than M. lotungensis, –12 °C being suggested as the minimum it will normally tolerate (Hogan 2008). An early introduction was made by Monrovia Nurseries but it has been collected on several other occasions since, by expeditions and private collectors.