Rhododendron leucaspis Tagg

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

Recommended citation
'Rhododendron leucaspis' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/rhododendron/rhododendron-leucaspis/). Accessed 2024-05-27.



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.
Lacking hairs smooth. glabrescent Becoming hairless.
Grey-blue often from superficial layer of wax (bloom).
Short straight point. mucronate Bearing a mucro.
Egg-shaped; broadest towards the stem.
Folded backwards.
Generally an elongated structure arising from the ovary bearing the stigma at its tip.


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

Recommended citation
'Rhododendron leucaspis' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/rhododendron/rhododendron-leucaspis/). Accessed 2024-05-27.

Small shrub, to 1 m; young shoots densely covered with straight bristles. Leaves 3–4.5 × 1.8–2.2 cm, broadly elliptic, apex obtuse, upper surface densely covered with setae, lower surface with vesicular scales sunk in pits. Flowers 1–2 per inflorescence; calyx lobes 7–8 mm, obovate; corolla white, often tinged pink, broadly campanulate to rotate, 25–30 mm; tube scaly outside, pilose within; stamens 10; ovary scaly, tapering into the sharply deflexed style. Flowering March-April. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)

Distribution  China S Tibet

Habitat 2,450–3,050 m

RHS Hardiness Rating H4

Awards AM 1929 (L. de Rothschild, Exbury) from Kingdon-Ward 6273; flowers with a touch of Sulphur Yellow at the base of the corolla internally AGM 1994

Conservation status Least concern (LC)

An evergreen shrub 1 to 2 ft high; young shoots and leaf-stalks bristly. Leaves elliptic to obovate, tapered at the base, rounded at the apex, the mucro at the end often curiously reflexed, 112 to 234 in. long, 12 to 114 in. wide, dark glossy green and sparsely bristly above; glaucous and thickly set with shining yellowish scales beneath; stalk 14 in. long. Flowers terminal, mostly in pairs, sometimes solitary or in threes, opening in February or March. Calyx 13 in. long, with five deep, broadly ovate or obovate lobes, scaly only at the base, fringed with soft hairs; flower-stalk 14 in. long, scaly but not bristly. Corolla flat and open, 2 in. wide, pure white, with five broadly rounded, overlapping lobes; slightiy scaly outside, hairy in the throat. Stamens ten, their white stalks hairy except towards the top; anthers chocolate-brown. Ovary densely clad with whitish scales; style thick, curved, whitish, glabrous. Bot. Mag., t. 9665. (s. Boothii ss. Megeratum)

R. leucaspis was discovered by Kingdon Ward in the Tsangpo gorge, at the extreme eastern end of the Himalaya, in November 1924 (KW 6273). It was ‘growing among rocks and beneath Bamboos, at the foot of a lofty cliff called the Musi La, or the Sulphur Mountain – there was a sulphur spring here, and I think it watered the Rhododendron. The slope immediately below the cliff was almost precipitous, and there were regular thickets of R. leucaspis dotted about here. It was not in flower, but I collected seeds, and it first flowered in this country in 1928’ (Kingdon Ward, Gard. Chron., Vol. 94 (1933), p. 65). He reintroduced the species in 1926 from the Di Chu valley on the borders between Assam and Tibet (KW 7171), about 200 miles to the south-east of the original locality. This time too he never saw the species in flower. To complete the story of R. leucaspis, it was reintroduced by Ludlow, Sherriff, and Elliot in 1947 from the place where Kingdon Ward had originally found it (L.S. & E. 13549; Gard. Chron., Vol. 143 (1958), p. 102).

Few rhododendrons are held in greater affection than R. leucaspis, with its flowers so large in proportion to the size of the plant and the large chocolate anthers so oddly contrasting with their background of creamy white. It is perfectly hardy and has lived out-of-doors in many gardens for almost half a century, still retaining its dwarf habit. But the flowers, borne so early, are often destroyed by frost. It received an Award of Merit on February 12, 1929, when three plants were shown from Exbury by Lionel de Rothschild; they were less than 1 ft high and only four years old from seed, but bore flowers of the full size – about 2 in. across. At that time it was still known as Rhododendron KW 6273, but was named and described two months later. It was awarded a First Class Certificate in 1944.

R megeratum Balf. f. & Forr.

R. tapeinum Balf. f. & Forr

This species is closely allied to R. leucaspis, differing in its yellow or cream-coloured flowers, in its densely bristly flower-stalks, and in the more glaucous undersides of the leaves. It was discovered by Forrest in 1914 on the Kari La, Mekong-Yangtse divide, growing on ledges of cliffs at 12,000–13,000 ft, and was introduced by him. Here it seems to be at the eastern end of its area, which extends westward into the eastern Himalaya, as far as the headwaters of the Subansiri. Forrest seems to have met with it only as a ground-dwelling plant, but in upper Burma and farther west it is often an epiphyte on fir or larch. It is mostly found between 10,000 and 12,000 ft. Bot. Mag., t. 9120.R. megeratum is less easy to cultivate than R. leucaspis and less often met with as an outdoor plant. Also, some forms have flowers in rather uninteresting shades of yellow. The species received an Award of Merit when exhibited by Lord Swaythling on April 30, 1935 (plant raised from seeds collected by Kingdon Ward in 1926 in the Seinghku valley, N.W. upper Burma), and again on April 28, 1970, when shown from Bodnant by Lord Aberconway and the National Trust.