Tree, (2–)5–12 m. Leaves 14–30 × 4–7.2 cm, oblong-oblanceolate, base cuneate, glabrous when mature or with vestiges of juvenile indumentum persisting along underside of midrib. Flowers 5–30, usually in a lax truss, 5–7-lobed, pinkish white, with purple flecks and a basal blotch, open-campanulate, nectar pouches lacking; stamens 15–20; ovary and style glabrous, stigma conspicuous, discoid. Flowering March-April. Royal Horticultural Society (1997).
Distribution China Sichuan, NE Yunnan, Guizhou
Habitat 1,800–4,000 m
RHS Hardiness Rating H5
Conservation status Least concern (LC)
An evergreen tree up to 45 ft high. Leaves obovate to oblanceolate, abruptly pointed, wedge-shaped at the base, 8 to 12 in. long, 2 to 31⁄2 in. wide, glabrous except for some floss on the midrib beneath when young. Flowers up to thirty in trusses 6 to 8 in. across. Flower-stalk 11⁄2 to 3 in. long, glabrous. Calyx very small. Corolla five- to eight-lobed, 21⁄2 in. wide, not so deep, bell-shaped, white or rosy with a large, conspicuous, dark crimson blotch at the base. Stamens sixteen to twenty-two, of very unequal length but shorter than the corolla, slightly downy at the base; ovary and style glabrous; stigma very large, 1⁄4 in. wide, yellow; seed-pod 1 in. long, 1⁄3 in. wide. Flowers in April. Bot. Mag., t. 9173. (s. Fortunei ss. Calophytum)
Native of W. Szechwan; discovered by the Abbé David near Mupin in 1869. Wilson introduced it in 1904 when collecting for Messrs Veitch and again in larger quantity four years later, during his first expedition for the Arnold Arboretum. According to him it is common in the forests of W. Szechwan, and grows to a larger size than any other rhododendron found in that region.
It is one of the noblest of Chinese rhododendrons and is perfectly hardy, needing only shelter from wind and some shade. In its very large, almost glabrous leaves it resembles R. sutchuenense but they are of a richer green, the flowers are smaller, on longer, red stalks. The knob-like stigma is very conspicuous.
A form with white flowers flushed with pink received an Award of Merit on March 9, 1920, when shown by Messrs Reuthe, who had flowered the species for the first time in 1916. The beautiful pale pink form grown at South Lodge, Lower Beeding, Sussex, was awarded a First Class Certificate when Dame Alice Godman showed it on April 4, 1933.
Leaves 18–30cm long, apex acuminate; flowers 15–30 in a truss.
Awards AM 1920 (G. Reuthe, Keston, Kent); flowers white, heavily flushed pink. FCC 1933 (Dame Alice Godman, South Lodge, Horsham); flowers pale pink. AGM 1993
R. openshawianum Rehder & E.H.Wilson
Leaves 14–18.5 cm long, apex cuspidate; flowers 5–10 in a truss. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)
Plants referable to both varieties occur in cultivation. From the description, var. pauciflorum W.K. Hu, which is said to be in cultivation, is only doubtfully distinct from var. openshawianum. This is an imposing arid very distinctive species. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)