The province of Yunnan, the native home of Magnolia laevifolia, is one of China's richest botanical areas. The size of California, Yunnan has great variety in elevation from valley and plateau to high mountain, resulting in many different microclimates. Half of all the plants found in China grow there.
Magnolia laevifolia grows as a small tree bearing multitudes of golden buds. Unlike other magnolia relatives, the buds form in the leaf axils and along the stem. The bright, hairy bud scales (perules) split off at blooming time to reveal an ivory flower with "butter-yellow stamens like lashes opening to the sun," described one grower. The waxy, chalice-like flower has a delicate perfume, and can bloom as early as January and continue late into the fall. The small leaves are oval-shaped and tough with a golden edge.
There are 41 species of what was once called Michelia in China (all of which have been lumped into the genus Magnolia), and 23 of these grow in Yunnan. Some are two hundred years old and grow at altitudes as high as 9000 feet, far higher than other varieties of magnolias can survive.
||Perennial small tree/shrub to 12 feet
||Filtered sun, good drainage, a slightly acidic soil
||As a small tree/shrub, it can fit into almost any garden space and provides a beautiful contrast of brown (buds and the underside of leaves), green and white.
||Grows profusely on the mountains of Yunnan Provence in southern China, north of Vietnam.
Formerly known as Michelia yunnanensis. All Michelia and Manglietia species have been lumped into the genus Magnolia. For more information see these articles:
Figlar 2006, A new classification for Magnolia; Rhododendrons, Camellias and Magnolias Yearbook 2006: 69-82. RHS, London
Figlar 2006, The sinking of Michelia and Manglietia into Magnolia, The Plantsman 2009: 118-123. RHS, London
(both articles are available at the HCR Library of Horticulture)
Magnolia laevifolia can be found in the Library Terrace (Bed 6).
IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS:
Photos by Docent Joanne Taylor
Text by Docent Kathy McNeil
Profile by Associate Curator David Kruse-Pickler