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Rhododendron xanthostephanum Merrill

Modern name

Rhododendron xanthostephanum Merr.


R. aureum Franch., not Georgi

An evergreen shrub 4 ft and upwards high; young shoots sprinkled with scales. Leaves ovate-lanceolate to oblong-lanceolate, usually pointed, tapered at the base, 112 to 312 in. long, 38 to 118 in. wide, dark glossy green and soon glabrous above, glaucous and closely pitted with tiny glistening scales beneath; stalks 14 to 12 in. long. Flowers opening in May in clusters usually of three to five. Calyx deeply five-lobed, the lobes rounded, more or less scaly like the flower-stalk which is 14 to 12 in. long. Corolla funnel-shaped, about 1 in. long, five-lobed, scaly outside, of varying shades of yellow (rich, bright, or tinged with green). Stamens ten, rather longer than the corolla, downy at the base. Ovary densely scaly as is the style also towards the base. Bot. Mag., t. 8882. (s. Boothii ss. Tephropeplum)

Native of Yunnan and the Tsarong province of S.E. Tibet westward through upper Burma to the eastern end of the Himalaya; discovered by Delavay about 1886 in the Tali range, Yunnan; introduced by Forrest in 1910. It occurs at mostly 8,000 to 11,000 ft, in thickets on rocky slopes and cliffs or at the edge of torrents. As a rule it is a bushy shrub in the wild up to 6 ft high, but Kingdon Ward found it 15 ft high in the gorge of the Taron (Kiuchiang). It is allied to R. tephropeplum, differing in the colour of its flowers. In R. sulfureum of the Boothii subseries the flowers are yellow but they are wider and the style is bent, whereas in R. xanthostephanum it is straight. It is a rather tender species, needing a sheltered position.

The Award of Merit was given on May 15, 1961, to clone ‘Yellow Garland’, exhibited by the Crown Estate Commissioners, Windsor Great Park. This was raised from Forrest 21707, collected on the Salween-Kiuchiang divide in 1922.

R. auritum Tagg – Near to R. xanthostephanum, but flowers creamy white, slightly tinged with pink and calyx-lobes strongly reflexed. It was described in 1934 from a garden plant raised from Kingdon Ward’s seed no. 6278, collected ‘blind’ in November 1924, during his exploration of the Tsangpo gorge at the eastern end of the Himalaya, and was reintroduced from the same locality by Ludlow, Sherriff, and Elliot in 1946-7. Kingdon Ward’s field note reads: ‘Shrub of 6-10 ft semi-erect, the branches flopping over unless supported, forming a thick bush. Bark peeling, exposing a smooth copper-red stem. Truss 5-7 flowered. Abundant on gneiss cliffs and boulders in open situations along the river bank… .’ It is hardy in mid-Sussex, but not of much beauty.



Other species in the genus