Rhododendron sherriffii Cowan

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Kindly sponsored by
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 sherriffii' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/rhododendron/rhododendron-sherriffii/). 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.
Heart-shaped (i.e. with two equal lobes at the base).
Protruding; pushed out.
Lacking hairs smooth. glabrescent Becoming hairless.
A covering of hairs or scales.
midveinCentral and principal vein in a leaf.
Egg-shaped; broadest towards the stem.
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 sherriffii' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/rhododendron/rhododendron-sherriffii/). Accessed 2024-06-17.

Large shrub or small tree; bark smooth, peeling; young shoots with a mealy tomentum, also stalked-glandular. Leaves c.7.5 × 4 cm, broadly obovate, base rounded, upper surface glabrous, lower surface with a dense fulvous tomentum composed of fasciculate hairs; petioles glabrous when mature. Flowers 4–5, in a lax truss; calyx 3–5 mm; corolla deep carmine, with darker nectar pouches, campanulate, 35–40 mm; ovary glabrous. Flowering March-April. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)

Distribution  China S Tibet

Habitat c.4,000 m

RHS Hardiness Rating H5

Awards AM 1966 (Crown Estate Commissioners, Windsor) from L. & S. 2751; flowers Cardinal Red at tip, darker below

Conservation status Vulnerable (VU)

Taxonomic note This species has been traditionally placed in Subsect. Fulgensia on account of its dense leaf indumentum. However, it resembles R. thomsonii in its flower characters and is therefore better placed in Subsect. Thomsonia. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)

An evergreen shrub or small tree up to 20 ft high in the wild; young stems green, with scattered short, black bristles. Leaves oblong or oblong-ovate, obtuse at the apex, slightly cordate at the base, 2 to 3 in. long, 1 to 112 in. wide, deep dull green above, lateral veins slighdy impressed, lower surface, except the midrib, covered with a thick brown indumentum made up of long-rayed hairs with ribbon-like arms; petioles bristly like the young branchlets. Flowers in a racemose cluster of three or four on pedicels about 12 in. long. Calyx crimson, cup-shaped, shallow, with rounded usually rather irregular lobes. Corolla tubular-campanulate, fleshy, deep crimson, up to 178 in. long, 58 to 78 in. wide at the mouth, with five dark nectar-pouches at the base. Stamens ten, with glabrous filaments. Ovary oblong, glabrous; style exserted, glabrous. Bot. Mag., n.s., t. 337.

R. sherriffii was discovered by Ludlow and Sherriff in 1936 in the Tibetan Himalaya near Lung, in the valley of the Chayul Chu, one of the feeders of the Subansiri, growing at 11,000 to 12,500 ft, and was introduced by them in the same year (L. & S. 2751). In describing this species Dr Cowan remarked ‘This is a plant noteworthy not only for beauty of flower but also for unusual botanical characteristics. So distinctive is it that it does not fit well into any recognised series and should perhaps be placed alone in a new series… . If no thick indumentum were present on the leaf, the shape would suggest that Rh. sherriffii might well be placed in the Thomsonii series.’ It is provisionally placed in the Campanulatum series, near R. fulgens.

The truss figured in the Botanical Magazine is from a plant in the Windsor collection, raised originally at Tower Court from L. & S. 2751. The species received an Award of Merit when shown by the Crown Estate Commissioners on March 8, 1966. As this date indicates, it is an early-flowering species.

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

Now placed in subsect. Fulgensia, though in some respects it resembles R. thomsonii subsp. lopsangianum (Rev. 2, p. 416).