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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles
'Rhododendron haematodes' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.
Small shrub, 0.6-1.8 m. Leaves 4.5-10 x 1.8-5.5 cm, obovate to oblong, lower surface with a two-layered indumentum, the upper layer a fawn to red-brown densely matted tomentum, composed of dendroid hairs, the lower whitish, compacted; petioles densely tomentose or setose and tomentose. Flowers 4-8, in a tight truss; calyx 1-15 mm, when well-developed cupular, but with irregular lobes; corolla fleshy, scarlet to deep crimson, tubular-campanulate, with nectar pouches, 35-45(-50) mm; ovary densely rufous-tomentose, abruptly contracted into the glabrous style. Flowering March-June. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)
Distribution China SE Tibet, W Yunnan
Habitat 3,350-4,450 m
RHS Hardiness Rating H6
Conservation status Near threatened (NT)
An evergreen shrub of close, dwarf habit as seen in cultivation but said by Forrest in a field note to be sometimes 6 to 10 ft high; young shoots clothed with a dense brown wool. Leaves leathery, obovate, abruptly contracted at the apex to a small mucro, tapered gradually to the base, 11⁄2 to 31⁄2 in. long, 3⁄4 to 11⁄2 in. wide, dark glossy green above, densely felted with reddish-brown wool beneath; stalk 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 in. long, woolly. Flowers in a terminal cluster of six to ten, on slender, downy stalks up to 11⁄2 in. long opening in mid-May. Calyx red, unequally five-lobed, up to 1⁄3 in. long. Corolla funnel-shaped with five broad, rounded, erect lobes; 11⁄2 to 2 in. long, nearly as much wide, scarlet to deep, rich, almost blood red. Stamens ten, 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 in. long, glabrous or nearly so; anthers brown. Ovary densely woolly; style glabrous. Bot. Mag., t. 9165. (s. Neriiflorum ss. Haematodes)
R. haematodes was discovered by the Abbé Delavay in the Tali range, Yunnan, where it is associated with R. neriiflorum at 12,000 to 13,000 ft. The cultivated plants descend mainly from seed-collections by Forrest in the same area in 1910 (F.6773) and 1917 (F.15521), both from low-growing plants, which may explain why this species is usually seen in gardens as a shrub only a few feet high and more in width. It is certainly one of the best of his introductions so far as this country in general is concerned, for it is very hardy. Its dwarf habit and slow growth make it suitable for the rock garden. It is the type species of a section of the Neriiflorum series distinguished mainly by the thick woolly covering on the young shoots and underneath the leaf. The richly coloured flowers are very effective and as a rule come late enough to escape frost. In the var. calycinum Franch., the coloured calyx is remarkably developed so that the lobes may be as much as 3⁄4 in. long.
R. haematodes received a First Class Certificate when shown by A. M. Williams, Werrington Park, Cornwall, on April 27, 1926.
subsp. chaetomallum (Balf.f. & Forr.) Chamberlain R. chaetomallum Balf.f. & Forr.; R. chaetomallum var. glaucescens Tagg & Forr. – See R. chaetomallum, page 627, and in this supplement. It differs from subsp. haematodes in having the young shoots and petioles clad with stout bristles (Rev. 2, p. 390).
Petioles and young shoots predominantly setose, setae stout.
Distribution NE Burma, China (SE Tibet, NW Yunnan).
Awards AM 1959 (E. de Rothschild, Exbury) as R. chaetomallum, from Forrest 25601; flowers Turkey Red.
Taxonomic note (R. chaetomallum Balf.f. & Forrest)
The two subspecies merge in NW Yunnan where the ranges of the two overlap, perhaps as a result of hybridization. However, only subsp. haematodes occurs in the Dali region of W Yunnan, and some populations in NW Yunnan contain only subsp. chaetomallum.
Petioles and young shoots predominantly tomentose, setae, when present, few and slender.
Distribution China (W Yunnan).
Awards FCC 1926 (A.M. Williams, Launceston, Cornwall); flowers bright scarlet.