Broadleaf, evergreen tree, to a height of 80 ft (~25 m). Leaves alternate, simple, mostly 11.5–14 cm long and 4–6 cm wide, obovate to elliptic, thin, leathery, with a short apex, margin entire, upper surface dark green and glossy with pubescence mostly on the midrib, the lower surface is covered with a dense, waxy bloom. Flowers on axillary shoots, yellowish-white, fragrant; 9-12 tepals (“petals”) 4–5 × 1–2.5 cm, obovate; stamens green to cream or yellow, carpels, many, brown- or silver-tomentose. Fruit cluster about 14 cm long, cylindrical; ripe carpels globose, 1-2 cm, and purplish brown.
- Sun to light shade, consistently moist soil
- Hardy to USDA Zone 8 Native to south-central and southeast China
This plant was first named Michelia wilsonii in1906 to honor the renowned botanist and Asian plant explorer Ernest (“China”) Wilson (1876-1930). The genus Michelia was first named by Linnaeus in 1753, but because of DNA sequencing and other research, michelia are now combined with Magnolia. However, an other magnolia had already been named Magnolia wilsonii to honor Ernest Wilson, so a different name was required. The solution was to use Wilson’s first name; hence the Latin name of this plant is now Magnolia ernestii. Wilson is possibly the only botanist to have two plants in the same genus named after him. (University of Washington Botanic Gardens)
Oregon State University campus: in the court yard behind Shepard Hall, near the rock sculpture and Hungarian Lilac (Syringa josikaea)