Rhododendron argyrophyllum Franch.

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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

Recommended citation
'Rhododendron argyrophyllum' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/rhododendron/rhododendron-argyrophyllum/). Accessed 2022-12-06.


Other taxa in genus


(pl. calyces) Outer whorl of the perianth. Composed of several sepals.
The inner whorl of the perianth. Composed of free or united petals often showy.
Lowest part of the carpel containing the ovules; later developing into the fruit.
The inner whorl of the perianth. Composed of free or united petals often showy.
Lacking hairs smooth. glabrescent Becoming hairless.
(botanical) Contained within another part or organ.
A covering of hairs or scales.
Flower-bearing part of a plant; arrangement of flowers on the floral axis.
Lance-shaped; broadest in middle tapering to point.
Loose or open.
Lowest part of the carpel containing the ovules; later developing into the fruit.
Generally an elongated structure arising from the ovary bearing the stigma at its tip.
Dense layer of soft hairs. tomentose With tomentum.


Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

Recommended citation
'Rhododendron argyrophyllum' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/rhododendron/rhododendron-argyrophyllum/). Accessed 2022-12-06.

Shrub or tree, 2-12 m. Leaves 6-16 x 1.8-6 cm, narrowly elliptic to oblanceolate, apex acute, upper surface reticulate, lower surface covered with a one-layered thin silvery or fawn compacted indumentum that is usually embedded in a surface film. Pedicels 20-25 mm. Flowers 4-10, in a loose inflorescence, white to pink, with purple flecks, open-campanulate, nectar pouches lacking, 30-55 mm; ovary with a glandular or eglandular indumentum, style glabrous. Flowering May. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)

Distribution  China N Yunnan, Sichuan, Shaanxi, Guizhou

Habitat 1,600-3,650 m

RHS Hardiness Rating H5

Conservation status Least concern (LC)

An evergreen shrub up to 20 ft high in the wild, the quite young shoots clothed with a loose, white scurf, or sometimes glabrous. Leaves oblong-lanceolate, tapered at the base, pointed, 212 to 5 in. long, 12 to 114 in. wide, glabrous and bright green above, the lower surface covered with a close white scurf; stalk 12 in. or less long. Flowers borne in May in a lax truss of as many as twelve; flower-stalks slender, up to 112 in. long. Calyx small, with glabrous triangular lobes. Corolla white blush or pink, more or less spotted with pink on the upper lobes, broadly funnel-shaped, about 112 in. wide. Stamens twelve or fourteen, shorter than the corolla, white with down at the base (but glabrous in var. leiandrum Hutch.). Ovary downy; style glabrous. Bot. Mag., t. 8767. (s. Arboreum ss. Argyrophyllum)

Native of W. Szechwan; discovered by the Abbé David in 1869 near Mupin; introduced by Wilson in 1904. It is a fine species at its best, with flowers of a delicate pink very freely borne, and makes a well-shaped narrow bush. It is also very distinct in the pure white undersurface of the young leaves. It is a variable species. Typically, the flowers are narrowed to the base, but in var. cupulare Rehd. they are nearer to cup-shaped. The leaves may be rounded at the base, not tapered as described above for the more typical form. Award of Merit May 1, 1934, when shown by Gerald Loder, Wakehurst Place, Sussex (this may have been var. cupulare).

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

subsp. nankingense (Cowan) Chamberlain R. a. var. nankingense Cowan

subsp. hypoglaucum (Hemsl.) Chamberlain R. hypoglaucum Hemsl.

The var. cupulare, mentioned in the second paragraph (page 600), is included by Chamberlain in the typical part of R. argyrophyllum, which is variable in the shape of the corolla (rev. 2., p. 325).

† R. pingianum Fang – Near to R. argyrophyllum but leaves longer than in the typical state of that species, the flowers deeper pink, and the ovary eglandular and coated with a rusty tomentum. Native of central-western Szechwan. It occurs on Mount Omei (Emei Shan) and is now in cultivation from seeds collected on the mountain by Keith Rushforth and by Roy Lancaster in 1980.

More remote from R. argyrophyllum, but resembling it in many respects, is R. formosanum Hemsl. The leaves are relatively much narrower, 3 to 6 in. long and never much over 1 in. wide, with a thicker indumentum beneath and on the average with more flowers in the inflorescence. Described in 1895 from a specimen collected by Augustine Henry, it was introduced to Britain in 1973 through John Patrick’s ‘Rhododendron Venture’. It is an inhabitant of broad-leaved forest up to about 6,500 ft, making a tall shrub or small tree, and will probably prove tender.

R hypoglaucum Hemsl

A close ally of R. argyrophyllum, perhaps a geographical subspecies. It is found to the east of R. argyrophyllum, in N.E. Szechwan and Hupeh, and according to Wilson, who introduced it in 1900, it is locally abundant in thin woods or, at its altitudinal limit, growing in open country among rocks, and attaining a height of 20 ft and as much in width. The flowers are white or pink, more or less spotted, sometimes densely so, rather like those of R. argyrophyllum var. cupulare in shape, borne in May. The main distinction from its ally seems to be that the leaves are relatively broader, 2 to 4 in. long, 1 to 1{1/2} in. wide, and the ovary is usually glandular as well as hairy. Bot. Mag., t. 8649.

subsp. argyrophyllum

Leaves 6-12 x 2-3cm, indumentum white or silvery; flowers white to pink, 30-35mm; ovary lacking glands.

Distribution China (N Yunnan, Sichuan, Shaanxi).

Awards AM 1934 (G.W.E Loder, Wakehurst Place, Sussex); flowers white flushed rose, with deeper pink spots.

Those forms with more open-campanulate, pink flowers have been referred to var. cupulare Rehder & E.H.Wilson. There is however a complete overlap with the more frequent form with funnel-campanulate white flowers.

subsp. hypoglaucum (Hemsl.) D.F.Chamb.

R. hypoglaucum Hemsl.

Leaves 7-11 x 2.5-4cm, indumentum white; flowers white, 30-35mm; ovary glandular.

Distribution C China (E Sichuan, Hubei).

Awards 1972 (Maj. A.E. Hardy, Sandling Park, Kent) to a clone ‘Heane Wood’, as R. hypoglaucum; flowers pink in bud, opening white, suffused red-purple and spotted red-purple.

Taxonomic note (R. hypoglaucum Hemsl.)

This subspecies may be distinguished by the glandular ovaries.

subsp. nankingense (Cowan) D.F.Chamb.

Leaves 11-16 x c.4cm, coriaceous, indumentum white; flowers pink, 40-55mm; ovary without glands.

Distribution China (Guizhou, ?Sichuan).

Awards AM 1957, (Crown Estate Commissioners, Windsor) to a clone ‘Chinese Silver’; flowers Persian Rose, with darker flushes. AGM 1993

This subspecies may be recognised by the large stiff leaves and by the large pink flowers.

subsp. omeiense (Rehder & E.H.Wilson) D.F.Chamb.

Leaves 6-8.5 x 1.5-2cm, indumentum fawn; flowers white; ovary without glands.

Distribution China (W Sichuan).

This subspecies, which has a restricted distribution in the wild, may be recognised by the relatively small leaves, with a fawn indumentum.

var. nankingense Cowan

Leaves larger, very silvery white beneath, and with large trusses of pink flowers, which are more than 2 in. across. Found by A. N. Steward on the Lao Shan, Kweichow province, in 1931, and introduced by him to the Edinburgh Botanic Garden in the following year. Award of Merit April 30, 1957, when shown by the Crown Estate Commissioners, Windsor Great Park (clone ‘Chinese Silver’).