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Michelia

Magnoliaceae
Evergreen, Shrubs, Trees

Magnolia relatives native to China and the Himalayas. When in flower, these might be mistaken for some kind of magnolia—but unlike magnolias, they bear their blossoms among the leaves rather than singly at branch ends.

All species are attractive, with lush foliage and profuse, fragrant blossoms divided into petal-like segments.

Michelia doltsopa
Michelia doltsopa

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Michelia doltsopa

To 90 ft. tall in its native Himalayas; in San Francisco, it has grown to 25 ft. in as many years. Varies from bushy (nearly as wide as high) to narrow and upright (about half as broad as tall); choose plants for desired form, then prune to shape. Thin-textured, leathery dark green leaves 3 to 8 in. long, 1 to 3 in. wide. In winter and spring, furry brown buds open to fragrant blossoms ranging from cream colored to white, with a slight green tinge at the base; they are 5 to 7 in. across, with 12 to 16 segments, each 1 in. wide.

Michelia figo

China. Slow growing to 6–8 ft. high (possibly to 15 ft. tall) and about two-thirds as wide. Densely clothed with glossy, leathery, 3-in. leaves. Plant blooms most heavily in spring but produces scattered flowers throughout summer. Blossoms are 1–1½ in.wide, creamy yellow with a thin brownish purple border on each segment. Notable feature is the powerful, fruity fragrance, like that of ripe bananas; the perfume is strongest in a warm, windless spot. Choice plant for entry or patio.

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