Rhododendron cephalanthum Franch.

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

Recommended citation
'Rhododendron cephalanthum' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/rhododendron/rhododendron-cephalanthum/). Accessed 2024-07-17.



  • Rhododendron chamaetortum Balf. f. & Ward

Other taxa in genus


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.
(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.
Lacking hairs smooth. glabrescent Becoming hairless.
Short straight point. mucronate Bearing a mucro.
Lowest part of the carpel containing the ovules; later developing into the fruit.
Egg-shaped; broadest towards the stem.
Generally an elongated structure arising from the ovary bearing the stigma at its tip.
(var.) Taxonomic rank (varietas) grouping variants of a species with relatively minor differentiation in a few characters but occurring as recognisable populations. Often loosely used for rare minor variants more usefully ranked as forms.


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

Recommended citation
'Rhododendron cephalanthum' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/rhododendron/rhododendron-cephalanthum/). Accessed 2024-07-17.

Dwarf shrub, sometimes prostrate, 0.1–1.2 m; leaf bud scales persistent and conspicuous. Leaves 1.2–4.7 × 0.7–2.3 cm, broadly elliptic to suborbicular, apex obtuse or rounded; lower surface covered with 2–3 tiers of overlapping scales, the upper tier fawn to brown (rarely dark brown), the lowest tier golden, paler than those of the upper tiers. Flowers many, in a dense racemose umbel; calyx lobes (3–)4–7 mm; corolla white to pink, rarely yellowish, tube 6.5–13 mm, densely pilose at throat, lobes (3–)4–8 mm; stamens 5(–7); ovary scaly. Flowering April-May. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)

Distribution  Myanmar N China S Tibet, W Yunnan India Arunachal Pradesh

RHS Hardiness Rating H5

Conservation status Least concern (LC)

An evergreen shrub of bushy habit up to 3 or 4 ft high; young shoots thickly covered with scurf-like scales and bristly. Leaves oval to oblong, rounded or tapered, and with a short mucro at the apex, 12 to 114 in. long, 14 to 12 in. wide, the margins decurved; dark glossy green above, clothed beneath with a dense scurfy coating of scales at first whitish, ultimately pale brown; stalk 18 to 14 in. long. Flowers densely clustered in a terminal head of eight or more blossoms which is 112 to 2 in. wide. Each flower is about 23 in. long and wide, the corolla white, narrowly tubular at the base, spreading at the mouth into five rounded lobes with crinkled margins, the throat filled with white down. Stamens five, 14 in. long, enclosed within the corolla-tube, slightly downy towards the base; ovary very scaly; style short, glabrous; calyx deeply five-lobed, scarcely half as long as the corolla, the lobes narrowly ovate, scaly outside, fringed with hairs; flower-stalk 18 in. long, scaly. (s. Anthopogon)

Native of W. Szechwan, N. W. Yunnan, and bordering parts of Tibet and upper Burma at 9,000 to 15,000 ft; discovered by the French missionary Delavay in 1884 and probably introduced by him. Seeds were later sent by Wilson, Forrest, Kingdon Ward and Rock from various parts of its range. It is a very charming dwarf species, very hardy, and flowers in April. In the form first grown in gardens the flowers were white, but more commonly they are pink or flushed with pink. In Kingdon Ward’s 6914 they are deep pink; this is a robust form, introduced from the Seinghku valley, upper Burma.

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

[var. crebreflorum] – This variety is not recognised in the Edinburgh revision. But the cultivated plants, probably all from the two Kingdon Ward numbers mentioned on page 626, could be distinguished as the Crebreflorum group.

subsp. cephalanthum

Leaves 1.2–2.6 × 0.7–1.5cm; corolla tube 6.5–13mm.

Distribution India (Arunachal Pradesh) N Burma, China (S & SE Tibet, Yunnan).

Habitat 3,050–4,500m.

Awards AM 1934 (L. de Rothschild, Exbury); flowers white, tinged yellow. AM 1979 (Mrs K.N. Dryden, Sawbridgeworth) to a clone ‘Winifred Murray’, as R. cephalanthum; flowers usually 8, in loose rounded heads, corolla red, fading white at lip.

subsp. platyphyllum (Franch. ex Balf.f. & W.W.Sm.) Cullen

R. platyphyllum Franch. ex Balf.f. & W.W.Sm.

Leaves 2.5–4.7 × 1.8–2.3cm; corolla tube 13–14mm.

Distribution NE Burma, China (NW & W Yunnan).

Habitat 3,050–4,000m.

Taxonomic note (R. platyphyllum Franch. ex Balf.f. & W.W.Sm.)

Subsp. platyphyllum, which is larger in all its parts than subsp. cephalanthum, has been recently introduced to cultivation. It is rare in the wild. R. cephalanthum resembles R. primuliflorum but may be distinguished by the persistent leaf bud scales.

var. crebreflorum (Hutch. & Ward) Cowan & Davidian

R. crebreflorum Hutch. & Ward

A very dwarf variety with pink flowers. Stamens six, with glabrous filaments. It was described from a specimen collected by Kingdon Ward in the Delei valley, Assam Himalaya, in 1928. (KW 8337, ‘A very lovely alpine from rock ledges at 13,000 ft’), but he had introduced it two years earlier from the Seinghku valley, upper Burma (KW 6967, a dwarf shrub only 6 or 8 in. high, growing on precipitous slopes, with rather large flowers, few in each truss, white flushed with pink; collected at 13,000 ft). A plant raised from KW 6967 received an Award of Merit when exhibited by Lt-Col. Messel, Nymans, Sussex, on May 1, 1934.