Magnolia sinica, a Critically Endangered tree endemic to Yunnan, China, is one of the 20 plant species with extremely small populations approved by the Yunnan government for urgent rescue action before 2015. Information on the geographical distribution and population size of this species had not previously been reported, hindering effective conservation. We therefore carried out a survey of the literature and of herbarium specimens, followed by a detailed field survey and morphological measurements and observations of surviving individuals. We located 52 individuals in the wild, in eight localities. Two distinguishing morphological characters (tepal colour and tepal number) were revised based on observations of all remaining wild individuals that produced flowers and on one 30-year-old flowering plant in Kunming Botanical Garden. The survival rate of individuals propagated from seed for ex situ conservation at the Garden was 100% over 5 years; of 100 individuals transplanted to each of two reinforcement sites, 20 and 18, respectively, were alive after 6 years. We propose two groups of measures to protect M. sinica: (1) in situ conservation, population monitoring, and public engagement, and (2) ex situ conservation with reinforcement or reintroduction.