Kindly sponsored by
Peter Norris, enabling the use of The Rhododendron Handbook 1998
New article for Trees and Shrubs Online.
'Rhododendron hellwigii' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.
Shrub to 3 m, mostly epiphytic, young stems at first densely brown-scaly, quickly glabrescent and then characteristically pale whitish or yellowish cream. Leaves 8-12.5 x 4.5-8 cm, broadly elliptic, ovate or obovate, the apex obtuse to rounded, the margin flat or very slightly recurved and narrowly cartilaginous, the base rounded or cordate; upper surface at first densely dark-brown scaly, later glabrescent green but slightly rough with scale bases, midrib strongly raised at the base but becoming slightly impressed in the upper part, lateral veins 5-7 pairs, very slightly impressed; lower surface with the midrib raised throughout its length, laterals smooth, at first densely brown-scaly with very unequally sized dendroid scales which quickly fall or become eroded and ultimately leave a rough green surface of scale bases. Flowers 2-5 per umbel, horizontal to half-hanging, calyx of 6-7 short (2 mm), brown-scaly lobes; corolla deep pink to dark blood red, with 6 or 7 lobes, tubular funnel-shaped, slightly curved. 7-8 x 8-9 cm, glabrous outside but flecked with indistinct paler marks; stamens 12-14, grouped on the lower side of the mouth of the flower; ovary densely scaly, the style glabrous, at first curving upwards away from the stamens, later moving to the centre of the flower. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)
Distribution Papua New Guinea Finisterre and Saruwaged Mts
Habitat 1,100-2,500 m
RHS Hardiness Rating H2
Conservation status Least concern (LC)
Well described in the wild as ‘a glorious species with petals a very dark blood red and so thick and fleshy that one can easily squeeze them so that the red sap runs out through the fingers’. In cultivation it is rather slow but certainly very handsome when in flower. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)