Scientific name: Rhododendron carneum
Plant type: Perennial shrub
Environment: Dappled to full shade, sheltered from wind, with well drained soil.
Bloom: White petals suffused with pink
Uses: Shaded mixed border
Rhododendron carneum was first discovered by western botanists in 1909 in northern Myanmar. Seeds of this attractive specimen were sent to Col. Francis Bacon Longe, the Surveyor General of India at the time. Col. Longe was able to grow these seeds in a greenhouse with conditions mimicking their mountainous native range and the shrub was seen flowering five years later in 1914. Noting the size and coloring of the flower, the plants were sent to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew for study. The species was published soon after in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine by the British botanist John Hutchinson. Hutchinson spent a majority of his career studying the flora of Africa, however focused some of his early career on Asian species.
The species was published based on the cultivated material grown at Kew, and for many years was only known from cultivated sources from that initial batch of seeds sent to Col. Longe. However, the species has since also been collected in both China and Vietnam, in addition to that original collection in the north of Shan State in Myanmar.
The flowers of the R. carneum are rather delicate looking. Each truss (a term used in horticulture to describe a cluster of flowers) holds 3-7 flowers each. At maturity the blooms are a creamy white suffused with pink. Buds and young blooms are a crimson pink. When first discovered, most mature specimen were only seen growing up to 3 feet, however in cultivation mature individuals have been found to grow up to 6 feet. Rhododendron carneum is particularly well suited to grow here at SFBG, as it is part of the Rhododendron subsection Maddenia Rhododendron. This group of Rhododendrons typically grow in Asia at elevations between 4,000 and 9,000 ft (R. carneum was first collected at 7,500 ft), where temperatures, much like here in San Francisco, do not fluctuate too extremely.
IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS:
Text, photos, and profile by Victoria Stewart