Rhododendron pumilum Hook. f.

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

Recommended citation
'Rhododendron pumilum' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/rhododendron/rhododendron-pumilum/). Accessed 2024-06-17.



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.
(pl. apices) Tip. apical At the apex.
The inner whorl of the perianth. Composed of free or united petals often showy.
Lacking hairs smooth. glabrescent Becoming hairless.
Grey-blue often from superficial layer of wax (bloom).
(botanical) Contained within another part or organ.
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 pumilum' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/rhododendron/rhododendron-pumilum/). Accessed 2024-06-17.

Creeping shrub, to 0.1 m; young shoots scaly and puberulent. Leaves 0.9–1.9 × 0.5–1.2 cm, elliptic to broadly elliptic, apex acute to rounded, margin entire, lower surface with distant small equal golden scales. Flowers 1–3, in a loose terminal inflorescence; calyx lobes oblong, 2–4 mm, not ciliate; corolla pink or purple, campanulate, slightly oblique, 11–21 mm, tube 7–14 mm, outer surface densely pilose, scales few, mostly on lobes; stamens 10; ovary scaly, impressed below the straight, glabrous style that is shorter than the stamens. Flowering April-June. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)

Distribution  BhutanMyanmar N China S Tibet India Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh Nepal

Habitat 3,500–4,250 m

RHS Hardiness Rating H5

Awards AM 1935 (Lord Swaythling, Townhill Park, Southampton) from Kingdon-Ward 6961; flowers pinkish mauve.

Conservation status Least concern (LC)

Taxonomic note This species differs from the remaining species in the subsection in its small campanulate corolla and short style. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)

An evergreen dwarf shrub with scaly minutely downy branchlets. Leaves elliptic to obovate-elliptic, rounded to obtuse at the apex, 12 to 34 in. long, about half as wide, bright green or bluish green above, glaucous and scaly beneath (sometimes with a few scales on the upper surface also); leaf-stalks very short, scaly. Flowers solitary, in twos or threes, from terminal buds; pedicels up to 1 in. long, elongating in fruit. Calyx five-lobed, scaly, up to 18 in. long. Corolla campanulate, five-lobed, 12 to 34 in. long, pink or rose-coloured, downy and slightly scaly outside. Stamens ten, included. Ovary densely scaly; style straight, included in the corolla, glabrous. (s. Uniflorum)

R. pumilum was discovered by J. D. Hooker in 1849 in the Sikkim Himalaya. It was, he wrote, the smallest of all the rhododendrons he saw. ‘Its slender woody stem roots among moss, Andromeda fastigiata, &c., ascends obliquely, and bears a few spreading branches, 3 to 4 inches in length… . An extremely elegant species, and apparently very rare; for I have only gathered it twice, and each time in the wildest district of Sikkim, where its elegant flowers appear soon after the snow has melted, when its pretty pink bells are seen peeping above the surrounding short heath-like vegetation, reminding the botanist of those of Linnaea borealis.’

R. pumilum also occurs in E. Nepal, and to the east of Sikkim ranges as far as N.W. upper Burma. It was apparently not introduced, or at least not successfully, until Kingdon Ward found it on the Dohong La at the eastern end of the Himalaya in 1924, forming hassocks and mats on steep alpine turf. In 1926 he collected seeds from the Seinghku valley in Burma (KW 6961). This form, which he nicknamed “Pink Baby”, carried ‘solitary or paired flowers of a delicate shell-pink, hoisted above the crowded leaves on long crimson stalks …’. More recently seeds have been sent by Ludlow and Sherriff and also by Stainton (from E. Nepal).

R. pumilum is very distinct from R. uniflorum and its immediate allies in its campanulate flowers and elliptic leaves. Indeed, it bears a certain resemblance to R. campylogynum. It is quite hardy and suitable for the rock garden. The Award of Merit was given on April 30, 1935, to a form raised from KW 6961, exhibited by Lord Swaythling, Townhill Park, Hants.

R ludlowii Cowan

Allied to R. pumilum and of similar dwarf habit, but differing most markedly in its yellow flowers, spotted with reddish brown inside. The calyx is larger than in R. pumilum and leafy, and a further point of distinction is that the obovate leaves are faintly crenated at the edge. It was discovered by Ludlow and Sherriff in 1936 on the Lo La, a pass at 13,500 ft on the border between Tibet and Assam, near the source of the Siyom river, a tributary of the Brahmaputra. Two years later, they and George Taylor collected seeds a short way to the north, on Tsari Sama, Tibet, and from these the cultivated plants derive. Bot. Mag., n.s., t. 412.R. ludlowii is not an easy plant to cultivate successfully. But Mr R. B. Cooke, who supplied the flowering piece figured in the Botanical Magazine, grew it successfully in Northumberland in a raised bed on the north side of a hedge, where it is screened from the sun for about six hours in the middle of the day. It is slow-growing, but bears flowers when the plant is still not much larger than its own corolla. Perhaps this rhododendron’s chief claim to distinction is that it is a parent of the lovely ‘Chikor’ and ‘Curlew’, described in the section on hybrids.