Rhododendron charitopes Balf.f. & Farrer

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Peter Norris, enabling the use of The Rhododendron Handbook 1998


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

Recommended citation
'Rhododendron charitopes' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/rhododendron/rhododendron-charitopes/). Accessed 2024-07-21.


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.
(pl. apices) Tip. apical At the apex.
Lacking hairs smooth. glabrescent Becoming hairless.
Plant originating from the cross-fertilisation of genetically distinct individuals (e.g. two species or two subspecies).
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.
(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.


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

Recommended citation
'Rhododendron charitopes' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/rhododendron/rhododendron-charitopes/). Accessed 2024-07-21.

Dwarf shrub, to 1.5 m; shoots with a smooth brown flaking bark. Leaves 3–5.5 × (1.4–)1.8–3 cm, elliptic to obovate, apex bluntly rounded to retuse, lower surface with scales of varying density. Pedicels scaly. Flowers (3–)4–5 per inflorescence; calyx (3–)5–7(–9) mm, ovate, rounded at apex; corolla pink to purplish, sometimes with flecks, campanulate, (15–)20–25 mm; stamens 10, regular; ovary densely scaly, style sharply deflexed, glabrous. Flowering April-May. Royal Horticultural Society (1997).

RHS Hardiness Rating H5

Conservation status Vulnerable (VU)

A dwarf evergreen shrub up to 2 ft high in the wild; young shoots scaly. Leaves obovate, the apex mucronulate, the base wedge-shaped, 1 to 234 in. long, 12 to 118 in. wide, glossy dark green above, pale green and fairly thickly sprinkled over with yellowish shining scales beneath; stalk 16 in. long. Flowers opening in May, usually three (sometimes two to four) in a terminal cluster, each on its slender scaly stalk which is 34 to 1 in. long. Calyx large for the size of the flower, 13 in. long, cut to the base into five ovate lobes, scaly outside. Corolla bell-shaped, five-lobed, about 1 in. wide, clear pink, speckled with crimson. Stamens ten, hairy on the lower two-thirds; ovary densely scaly; style 13 in. long, thick and glabrous. Bot. Mag., t. 9358. (s. and ss. Glaucophyllum)

Native of N.E. upper Burma, found in the Shing Hong pass by Farrer in June 1920. It was then in flower and he describes it as a ‘particularly charming plant with three- (rarely four-) bloomed inflorescences. Flowers of a clear apple-blossom pink flushed more warmly in the upper lobes, and speckled with crimson; and with a deep rose tube.’ Farrer died before he could harvest the seeds of his 1920 discoveries, but four years later Forrest met with this species near the type-locality and introduced it (F.25570 and 25581).

It is a very attractive little shrub, quite hardy, though its expanding flower-buds may be killed by late frost. Often it produces a quite heavy crop of flowers in the autumn, though at the cost of next spring’s display.

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

(The authors as above, not as printed on page 628.)

subsp. tsangpoense (Hutch. & Ward) Cullen R. tsangpoense Hutch. & Ward; R. tsangpoense var. curvistylum Cowan & Davidian; R. curvistylum Ward, nom. nud. – This has a more northerly distribution than the typical subspecies. With regard to var. curvistylum (page 629), Dr Cullen remarks that while the (flowering) type-specimen belongs to subsp. tsangpoense, plants cultivated under KW 5843 are of the parentage suggested by Kingdon Ward. This is puzzling, as the collector clearly considered that his flowering specimen (KW 5843) was also hybrid (5844 being R. tsangpoense and 5842 R. campylogynum).

R. pruniflorum Hutch. R. tsangpoense var. pruniflorum (Hutch.) Cowan & Davidian; R. sordidum Hutch. – Dr Cullen restores this rhododendron to its original species status. He considers it to be a very distinct species, more closely related to R. brachyanthum than to R. charitopes, despite the difference in flower colour.

R tsangpoense Hutch. & Ward

This species is very near to R. charitopes. The differential characters given by Cowan and Davidian are the narrow-obovate to oblong-elliptic leaves, against broad-obovate in R. charitopes, and the smaller calyx, up to {1/4} in. long. It was discovered by Kingdon Ward in 1924 on the Doshong La, S.E. Tibet, in the mountains enclosed by the Tsangpo bend. It is uncommon in cultivation. Award of Merit May 2, 1972, when shown by Major A. E. Hardy, Sandling Park, Kent (clone ‘Cowtye’).

subsp. charitopes

Calyx 6–9mm; corolla pink.

Distribution NE Burma, China (NW Yunnan).

Habitat 3,200–4,250m.

Awards AM 1979 (Crown Estate Commissioners, Windsor) to a clone Tarkside’; flowers in clusters of three, red-purple, with upper lobes suffused with darker shades, upper lobes extensively spotted with red-purple.

subsp. tsangpoense (Kingdon-Ward) Cullen

R. tsangpoense Kingdon-Ward var. tsangpoense
R. tsangpoense Kingdon-Ward var. curvistylum Kingdon-Ward ex Cowan & Davidian

Calyx (3–)5–6mm; corolla pink or purple.

Distribution China (S Tibet).

Awards AM 1972 (Maj. A.E. Hardy, Sandling Park, Kent) to a clone ‘Cowtye’, probably from Kingdon-Ward 7744; flowers purple, with darker spots and a waxy bloom.

Taxonomic note (R. tsangpoense Kingdon-Ward, & incl. var. curvistylum Kingdon-Ward ex Cowan & Davidian)

There is no clear separation between the two subspecies, the distributions of which do not however overlap.

var. pruniflorum (Hutch.) Cowan & Davidian

R. pruniflorum Hutch.
R. sordidum Hutch

Leaves more densely scaly beneath, slightly overlapping to their own diameter apart (against mostly three to six times their own diameter apart in the typical state). This variety was found by Kingdon Ward in 1926 on both sides of the Irrawaddy-Lohit divide, on the frontier between Burma and Assam and was introduced by him. According to the field notes, the colour of the flowers in KW 6924 (Seinghku valley) was plum-purple and in KW 7188 (Di Chu valley) ‘plum-purple or inclining to crimson on the one hand, or to violet on the other’. He later found the same variety on Kaso peak in the Mishmi Hills, Assam (KW 8415), flowers described in field note as claret-coloured; the specimen under this number is the type of R. sordidum, a synonym of var. pruniflorum. As met with in cultivation this variety usually has flowers of a slaty purple.Cowan and Davidian also describe R. tsangpoense var. curvistylum, with smaller, tubular-campanulate flowers. This was found by Kingdon Ward on the Doshong La (KW 5843) and was considered by him to be a natural hybrid between R. campylogynum var. myrtilloides (KW 5842) and typical R. tsangpoense (KW 5844). In this connection it is interesting to note that Farrer found in Burma some plants which he considered to be hybrids between R. campylogynum var. charopoeum and R. charitopes, to which R. tsangpoense is closely related (see above).