Rhododendron spiciferum Franch.


R. pubescens Balf. f. & Forr.

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A small shrub up to 6 ft high; young stems slender, scaly and clad with whitish down interspersed with longer, bristly hairs. Leaves mostly lanceolate to narrowly so, or narrow-oblong, 12 to 112 in. long, up to 38 in. wide, acute to obtuse or rounded at the apex, mucronate, margins revolute, dark green above, paler beneath, clad on both sides with the same mixture of scales and two types of hair seen on the young stems, but the upper surface becoming more or less glabrous. Flowers two or three together in clusters from the uppermost leaf-axils of the previous year's shoots, opening in March or April; pedicels about 14 in. long, hairy and scaly. Calyx with five short, sometimes very short and indistinct, lobes. Corolla varying from pink to almost white, widely funnel-shaped, about 12 in. long and 58 in. wide at the mouth, scaly outside. Stamens ten, exserted, filaments usually hairy at the base. Ovary downy and scaly; style glabrous, or downy at the base. Bot. Mag., t. 9319. (s. Scabrifolium)

Native of the drier parts of Yunnan and of S.W. Szechwan and Kweichow; discovered by Père Delavay near Yunnan-fu in 1891. In 1918 Forrest collected a specimen in the Muli area of S.W. Szechwan from which Sir Isaac Bayley Balfour described R. pubescens, now included in R. spiciferum. But the first introduction was apparently by Kingdon Ward, also from the Muli area, in 1921. It is closely allied to R. scabrifolium, differing in its much smaller and relatively narrower leaves. It is a pretty species, slightly tender and best grown in a sunny sheltered position. Like all the members of the Scabrifolium series it is found wild in open situations or light woodland in regions of comparatively low rainfall.

The Award of Merit was given on April 19, 1955, to the clone 'Fine Bristles', with white flowers suffused with varying shades of Persian Rose; it was shown by the Crown Estate Commissioners, Windsor Great Park.

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

Transferred to R. scabrifolium as var. spiciferum.



Other species in the genus