Rhododendron campylocarpum Hook. f.

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

Recommended citation
'Rhododendron campylocarpum' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/rhododendron/rhododendron-campylocarpum/). Accessed 2024-05-25.



  • Rhododendron campylocarpum var. pallidum Millais
  • Rhododendron campylocarpum var. elatum Hort.

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.
Traditional English name for the formerly independent state known to its people as Bod now the Tibet (Xizang) Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China. The name Xizang is used in lists of Chinese provinces.
(pl. apices) Tip. apical At the apex.
Immature shoot protected by scales that develops into leaves and/or flowers.
Dry dehiscent fruit; formed from syncarpous ovary.
Fringed with long hairs.
Heart-shaped (i.e. with two equal lobes at the base).
Lacking hairs smooth. glabrescent Becoming hairless.
Bearing glands.
Grey-blue often from superficial layer of wax (bloom).
Leaf stalk.
Generally an elongated structure arising from the ovary bearing the stigma at its tip.
(subsp.) Taxonomic rank for a group of organisms showing the principal characters of a species but with significant definable morphological differentiation. A subspecies occurs in populations that can occupy a distinct geographical range or habitat.
Appearing as if cut off.


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

Recommended citation
'Rhododendron campylocarpum' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/rhododendron/rhododendron-campylocarpum/). Accessed 2024-05-25.

Shrub or small tree, 1–6.5 m. Leaves 3.2–10 × 1.5–5 cm, orbicular to elliptic, base cordate, glabrous though rarely with a few glands at base. Flowers 3–10(–15), in a lax to more or less dense truss, pale to sulphur yellow, sometimes tinged with red in bud, with or without a basal blotch, campanulate, nectar pouches lacking, 25–40 mm; ovary densely stalked-glandular, style glabrous. Flowering April-May. Royal Horticultural Society (1997).

Distribution  Myanmar NE China S Tibet, Yunnan India NE Nepal

Habitat 3,000–4,600 m

RHS Hardiness Rating H5

Conservation status Least concern (LC)

An evergreen shrub 4 to 10 ft high, occasionally taller; branchlets slender, glandular. Leaves 112 to 4 in. long, about half as wide, mostly elliptic or oblong-elliptic, obtuse or rounded at the apex, usually truncate or slightly cordate at the base, upper surface dark glossy green, lower surface paler glaucous green or even whitish, glabrous on both sides; petiole up to 1 in. long, sometimes reddish, often glandular. Flowers four to nine in a loose terminal cluster, each on a stalk up to 1 in. long, which is usually glandular. Calyx small, glandular-ciliate and usually glandular on the back also. Corolla five-lobed campanulate, 212 to 3 in. across, varying in colour from creamy white through pale primrose to sulphur yellow, often with a crimson mark in the throat and usually more or less tinged with pinkish buff or apricot in the bud. Stamens ten, glabrous or slightly downy at the base. Ovary densely glandular; style usually glandular in the lower part, never throughout. The specific epithet refers to the curving of the seed-capsule in the fruiting plants seen by Hooker, but often it is straight. Bot. Mag., t. 4968. (s. Thomsonii ss. Campylocarpum)

Native of the Himalaya from Nepal eastward, and of the Mishmi Hills, Assam; discovered by J. D. Hooker in east Nepal late in 1848 and introduced by him. Of all the rhododendrons he saw during his famous expedition, R. campylocarpum was the one he most admired, with its flowers ‘of surpassing delicacy and grace’. It is perfectly hardy in a sheltered place near London but, flowering in April or early May, the display is sometimes spoilt by frost.

R. campylocarpum varies in the colour of its flowers, and in habit. In his Latin diagnosis Hooker described the flowers as white or deep straw-coloured (‘saturate straminea’); in the English text he said: ‘tinged of a sulphur hue and always spotless’. In the beautiful plate accompanying the description, based on his specimens and field-sketches, the flowers are depicted as pale creamy yellow, without blotch (Rhododendrons of the Sikkim Himalaya, t. 30). His account must be based on plants growing near the border between Sikkim and Nepal, north­west of Kangchenjunga, since he was in that area throughout June 1849, the month in which he found the species in flower. But the seeds he sent home were collected in November 1849 and were from a different locality, between Tum-loong and the Cho La, on the frontier between Sikkim and Tibet. Some of the plants raised in Britain from these seeds proved to be remarkably compact, with flowers of a clear yellow and this form was taken by Millais to represent typical R. campylocarpum. To a laxer form commoner in gardens, with pale primrose-yellow flowers, he gave the distinguishing epithet pallidum (Rhododendrons, 2nd series, p. 100; Rhodo. Soc. Notes, Vol. II, p. 73). It should be obvious, however, that what came up from the seeds that Hooker collected ‘blind’ in the early winter of 1849 is really of no botanical relevance, as the species was not described from them, but from wild plants that Hooker had seen in another area.

The name R. campylocarpum “var. elatum” is used in gardens for the form commonest in cultivation, which is tall-growing and has corollas with a red blotch at the base. It is said that in breeding the so-called Hooker form gives mainly yellows, while the “var. elatum” throws pinks and ivory-whites as well as yellows.

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

subsp. caloxanthum (Balf. f. & Forr.) Chamberlain R. caloxanthum (Balf. f. & Forr.) R. telopeum Balf. f. & Forr.; R. campylocarpum subsp. telopeum (Balf. f. & Forr.) Chamberlain – See R. caloxanthum and R. telopeum, pp. 617–18. This subspecies replaces R. campylocarpum in north-east Burma and adjoining parts of China, but there is some overlap, as already noted by Cowan and Davidian.

R. panteumorphum – The position of this remains in doubt. It may belong to R. × erythrocalyx, for which see this supplement, under R. selense.

R panteumorphum Balf. f. & W. W. Sm.

R. telopeum f. telopeoides Tagg

This species differs from R. campylocarpum only in having the leaves commonly oblong rather than elliptic, and in its somewhat dwarfer habit. It was discovered by Forrest north-west of Tseku, Yunnan, on the Mekong-Salween divide and was later collected by him and by Rock in other parts of Yunnan. The gap between the easternmost stations of R. campylocarpum and the type-locality of R. panteumorphum is not great, and is bridged by the related R. wardii, which was found originally not far from Tseku and also occurs in the eastern Himalaya.

subsp. caloxanthum (Balf.f. & Farrer) D.F. Chamb.

R. caloxanthum Balf.f. & Farrer
R. telopeum Balf.f. & Forrest

Leaves sub-orbicular, 1.1–1.7 × as long as broad.

Distribution NE Burma, SW China (SE Tibet, Yunnan).

Habitat 3,000–4,300m.

Awards AM 1934 (L. de Rothschild, Exbury) as R. caloxanthum, from Farrer seed; buds pink, opening deep yellow, suffused red.

Subsp. caloxanthum is generally a smaller plant than is subsp. campylocarpum; the two apparently intergrade in Southern Tibet.

subsp. campylocarpum

Leaves elliptic, 1.6–2.5 × as long as broad.

Distribution Nepal, NE India, China (S Tibet).

Habitat 3,000–4,600m.

Awards FCC 1892 (Veitch & Sons, Chelsea) as R. campylocarpum; flowers Lemon Yellow.