Rhododendron niveum Hook. f.

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

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'Rhododendron niveum' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/rhododendron/rhododendron-niveum/). Accessed 2020-10-27.

Genus

Other species in genus

Glossary

calyx
(pl. calyces) Outer whorl of the perianth. Composed of several sepals.
corolla
The inner whorl of the perianth. Composed of free or united petals often showy.
ovary
Lowest part of the carpel containing the ovules; later developing into the fruit.
apex
(pl. apices) Tip. apical At the apex.
campanulate
Bell-shaped.
corolla
The inner whorl of the perianth. Composed of free or united petals often showy.
flush
Coordinated growth of leaves or flowers. Such new growth is often a different colour to mature foliage.
glabrous
Lacking hairs smooth. glabrescent Becoming hairless.
indumentum
A covering of hairs or scales.
section
(sect.) Subdivision of a genus.
stigma
(in a flower) The part of the carpel that receives pollen and on which it germinates. May be at the tip of a short or long style or may be reduced to a stigmatic surface at the apex of the ovary.
style
Generally an elongated structure arising from the ovary bearing the stigma at its tip.

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Credits

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

Recommended citation
'Rhododendron niveum' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/rhododendron/rhododendron-niveum/). Accessed 2020-10-27.

Multi-stemmed tree, to 6 m. Leaves 11.5-17 x 4-4.5 cm, elliptic to oblanceolate, lower surface with a compacted fawn dendroid indumentum. Flowers 15-20, in a dense inflorescence, deep magenta to deep lilac, with darker nectar pouches, tubular-campanulate, 30-35 mm. Flowering April-May. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)

Distribution  Bhutan W India Sikkim

Habitat 2,900-3,650 m

RHS Hardiness Rating H5

Awards AM 1951 (Mrs R.M. Stevenson, Tower Court, Ascot); flowers Imperial Purple, with darker staining. FCC 1979 (Crown Estate Commissioners, Windsor) to a clone 'Crown Equerry'; trusses containing up to 32 flowers, corolla purple-violet, with darker lip and deeper veining. AGM 1993

Conservation status Vulnerable (VU)

Taxonomic note This distinctive species is rare and threatened in the wild. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)

An evergreen shrub of sturdy habit, up to 15 ft high; young shoots clothed with a whitish felt. Leaves narrowly-oblong, 3 to 7 in. long, 1 to 212 in. wide, tapering at the base, more rounded at the apex. When the young leaves unfold they are covered all over with a snow-white floss, which falls away from the upper surface, leaving it very deep green, but which persists beneath and turns a pale brown. Flowers up to twenty, sometimes more numerous, in a compact, rounded head 3 to 4 in. across, borne on short, felted stalks. Calyx minute. Corolla tubular-campanulate, five-lobed, 138 to 2 in. long, purplish lilac or dull plum-coloured, with darker nectar-pouches at the base. Stamens ten, shorter than the corolla. Ovary felted; style glabrous, with a small stigma. Bot. Mag., t. 4730. (s. and ss. Arboreum)

R. niveum was discovered by J. D. Hooker in Sikkim in November 1849, growing around Lachen, Lachung, and Chola at 10,000 to 12,000 ft, and not uncommon there. But outside Sikkim it seems to be rare.

It is quite hardy at Kew in a sheltered position but enjoys a moister climate. The unusual colour of the flowers among rhododendrons, and the striking snowy-white covering of its young leaves, gives this species a certain distinction and makes it well worth growing, though not in the neighbourhood of pure reds, with which its flowers clash gratingly. Its flowering season is April to May.

Hooker noted that the indumentum of R. niveum is sometimes rusty-red in the wild. This form is figured in Bot. Mag., t. 6827, as var. fulvum.

R. niveum is a variable species, and some forms are much inferior to others in colour and size of flower. The Award of Merit was given on April 17, 1951, to a form with Imperial Purple flowers in trusses of up to thirty, exhibited by Mrs Stevenson, Tower Court, Ascot.

Some garden seedlings are thought to be hybrids between R. niveum and R. falconeri, e.g. ‘Colonel Rogers’, raised at Riverhill, Sevenoaks, and ‘Trevarrick’, raised in Cornwall, where hybrids of this putative parentage are fairly common. Another is ‘Mecca’, which received an Award of Merit on May 4, 1965, when exhibited by Mrs Douglas Gordon, Littleworth Cross, Surrey. In this the flowers are white with a light purple flush, in rounded trusses of up to forty-two. These plants are not further dealt with in the section on hybrids.

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