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Shrub or tree, 1.5-15 m. Leaves 7-12.5 x 5.6-7.7 cm, orbicular to ovate-orbicular, base cordate, lower surface glabrous. Flowers 10-17 in a truss; calyx c.0.5 mm; corolla 7-lobed, deep rose-pink, campanulate to open-campanulate, nectar pouches lacking, 35-40 mm; stamens 14; ovary stalked-glandular, style glabrous. Flowering April-May.
Distribution China Sichuan, Guangxi
Habitat 2,500-4,000 m
RHS Hardiness Rating H5
Awards AM 1922 (Hon. H.D. McLaren, Bodnant); flowers rose pink.
Conservation status Vulnerable (VU)
Taxonomic note Only subsp. orbiculare, with orbicular leaves, is known in cultivation. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)
An evergreen shrub up to 6 or 10 ft high; young shoots stout, purplish, glandular. Leaves almost orbicular, but usually somewhat longer than broad, 2 to 4 in. long, deeply auricled at the base, rounded at the apex, with a minute tip formed by a slight prolongation and thickening of the midrib; quite glabrous, dark green above, glaucous beneath; stalk 11⁄2 to 2 in. long, very stout. Flowers borne in April or May, up to ten or so in a terminal truss 6 in. across; flower-stalks glabrous, up to 21⁄4 in. long. Calyx minute, glabrous. Corolla widely bell-shaped, 2 to 21⁄2 in. across, seven-lobed, pale magenta-pink. Stamens about fourteen, shorter than the corolla. Ovary glandular, style glabrous. Bot. Mag., t. 8775. (s. Fortunei ss. Orbiculare)
Native of W. Szechwan, China; discovered by Père David around 1870; introduced to Britain by Wilson in 1904. It is a very distinct rhododendron, making a dense bush of rounded habit if not crowded. But the flowers are usually of a cold shade of bluish pink which is far from attractive. It received an Award of Merit in 1922.
subsp. cardiobasis (Sleumer) Chamberlain R. cardiobasis Sleumer – This is mentioned under R. orbiculare on page 733, as a related species.