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Magnolia biondii

This species was found in the wild at the end of the 1800s but didn’t reach the west until 1977. Plant hunter Ernest Wilson, whom we can thank for many of our finest garden plants, collected herbarium samples of Magnolia biondii in 1907, but the seed he collected never germinated. Perhaps they dried out on the long journey west, which is fatal to magnolia seeds.

According to the literature M. biondii, which grows widespread in central China, is very similar to the willow leaf magnolia (Magnolia salicifolia). The leaves are rather large, up to 17 cm long and 10 cm broad. The 10 cm flowers are usually white but may show a trace of red. They appear in early spring, before those of the Kobus magnolia (M. kobus); all the better if reports of their surviving late, light spring frosts are true.

Winter hardiness is reportedly excellent, which would make this a welcome addition to the very limited number of magnolias which are hardy in Finland. The plants in Alppiruusulaakso (Rhododendron Valley) have so far suffered no winter or late frost damage and seem hardier than the Loebner magnolia (Magnolia × loebneri).