Rhododendron discolor Franch.
Synonyms: R. mandarinorum Diels; R. kirkii Hort.
A shrub 10 to 18 ft high, of robust habit, free from down in all its parts; young shoots stout, yellowish. Leaves oblong or narrowly oval, 3 to 8 in. long, 3⁄4 to 21⁄2 in. wide, tapered about equally at both ends, sometimes heart-shaped at the base, the apex with a short mucro, upper surface deep green, lower one pale, stalks 1⁄2 to 11⁄4 in. long, stout, purple. Flowers white or faintly blush-tinted. Calyx small, glandular on the margins at first. Corolla funnel-shaped, 21⁄2 to 3 in. long and wide, six- or seven-lobed. Stamens twelve to sixteen, not downy, shorter than the corolla; ovary and style glandular. Bot. Mag., t. 8696. (s. and ss. Fortunei)
Native of Central China (E. Szechwan, Hupeh, Hunan, and Kweichow); discovered by the French missionary Farges between 1891 and 1894; introduced by Wilson in 1900, when collecting for Messrs Veitch, and again in greater quantity in 1907, during his first expedition for the Arnold Arboretum. According to him it is a common species in the woodlands of Hupeh and E. Szechwan between 4,500 and 7,000 ft. It flowered in Veitch’s Coombe Wood nursery in 1911.
R. discolor is a fine species and perfectly hardy. It does not flower until late June or early July and starts into growth late. For this reason it is less satisfactory in northern gardens, where the young wood may not ripen before winter sets in. Even in the south it should be given a moderately sunny position, but sheltered from wind. It was awarded a First Class Certificate when Kew exhibited it on June 27, 1922. A fortnight later a pale pink form, shown from Bodnant, received an Award of Merit.
Because of its late flowering and hardiness, R. discolor has been much used in hybridising. The Angelo, Argosy, Albatross, Antonio, Lady Bessborough and Azor grexes all have R. discolor as one parent.
From the Supplement (Vol. V)
This becomes R. fortunei subsp. discolor (Franch.) Chamberlain.