"Look on yonder misty mountain
See the young monk
meditating rhododendron forest."
Rhododendron oreotrephes is a Chinese species, first presented in the west through the efforts of Dr. Ernest Wilson who collected it in Szechuan 1904.
The specimen photographed is in a friend's garden I helped landscape & for which I selected numerous species rhodies through the Species Rhododendron Foundation & other Northwest sources. This one has luminous lilac-purple trumpets with a dusting of freckles in the dorsal petal (not in all specimens however). A slow grower, it can reach five feet in ten years, though it can become much larger over the long run.
The smallish leaves, redolent of spice when rubbed, can be surprisingly varied from lancate to eliptical to roundish, but nearly always bluish green. Young shoots & the petioles (pedicles) are red to purple. It is semi-evergreen to fully evergreen.
It does well in full sun or partial shade, but the distinctive glaucus leaf color is at its best when grown in full sun. In form it is like a small tree or medium-sized shrub, standing very upright, but slow growing being only five feet tall in ten years.
Its funnelform-campanulate flowers open toward the end of April & throughout May.
Color for the mildly fragrant flowers is variable from specimen to specimen, in the pale pink to deep bright lavender range, sometimes with red freckling to the upper dorsal, other times without freckling. The stamins can be quite large & of uneven lengths.
Hardy to about zero degrees F. or colder, it is native to southwest Szechuan to northwest Yunnan provinces in China, upper Burma & southeast Tibet, where it grows on the sunny edges of mixed forests. The species name means "dwelling on mountains."
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