Sunday, 10 May 2009

Rhododendron ciliatum Hook. f.

Curtis's Botanical Magazine 4648 Vol. LXXVIII (1852)

Rhododendron ciliatum. Hook. fil. Rhod. of Sikkim-Himal. p. 26. t. 24.
S. floribus majoribus, corollis albis roseo-tinctis. (TAB. Nostr. 4648.)

It is scarcely two years since the seeds of this Rhododendron were received from Dr. Hooker, and already (March 7, 1852) six plants of it have produced flowers while only seven inches high, and many others are showing blossoms. Their flowering has given us peculiar pleasure, as the first of the Sikkim-Himalayan Rhododendrons which have done so ; and on another account. From more than one quarter hints have been thrown out that the author of the work above cited has used some freedom in going beyond nature in the size and colouring of the flowers. Such gratuitous statements, from very incompetent judges, are contradicted by the first species that has blossomed ; for assuredly our cultivated R. ciliatum far excels in size of the corolla, and delicacy of tint, Dr. Hooker's original figure. Even were the reverse the case, it would be no proof of any inaccuracy in Dr. Hooker's figures, for no intelligent traveller, in Sikkim can fail to observe how liable the flowers of all the species of Rhododendron are to vary in size and colour (nor are the leaves more constant) ; in the present instance the difference is so great, though there cannot be a question of the identity of species, that we feel ourselves, as it were, compelled to make it a variety. The corollas are nearly, if not quite, double the size of the native plant as seen by Dr. Hooker, and instead of being of a uniform lilac-purple colour, they are of the most delicate white, tinged with red-rose colour. In all other respects the two plants perfectly agree. It is a native of wet rocky places (rarely in woods) of Sikkim-Himalaya, in the Lachen and Lachoong valleys ; elevation 9—10,000 feet. It may be expected to be hardy therefore ; and, indeed, we may observe, that young plants of nearly all our species from Sikkim-Himalaya have passed this winter in the open air, simply surrounded by a bank of earth a foot and a half high. R. Dalhousiae alone has failed in such a situation, and in many cases we know that it has equally failed under glass. R. ciliatum has been kept in a cool greenhouse, and has certainly the merit of being a ready flowerer, and that at a very early age.

Descr. Even in its native country this species does not seem to attain a height of more than two feet, growing in clumps, and yielding a faintly resinous and agreeable odour. The whole plant, but especially the younger shoots, are more or less pilose with long ferruginous hairs. The leaves, two to three inches long, eventually become glabrous on the upper surface ; beneath they are clothed with minute ferruginous scales. Flowers terminal, arising from a scaly imbricated bud. Peduncles rather stout, very villous. Calyx large, almost foliaceous, cut nearly to the base into five almost rounded, spreading, obtuse lobes, villous on the outside. Corolla campanulate, but with the tube subinfundibuliform ; very large in proportion to the leaves, in its native country usually of a uniform lilac-purple : with us of the most delicate white, tinged with as delicate a rose-colour, especially at the back of each lobe. Stamens included ; filaments hairy at the base ; anthers rather small, purple. Ovary oblong, contracted at the apex. Style declined, longer than the stamens. Stigma five-lobed, peltate.
Fig. 1. Stamen. 2. Calyx and pistil. 3. Section of ovary :—magnified. 4. Fruit :—natural size.

W. J. Bean 8th ed. Vol. III p. 631
Native of the Himalaya from E. Nepal eastward; discovered by J. D. Hooker in Sikkim and introduced by him in 1850. Hooker found it in valleys of the interior at 9,000 t0 10,000 ft, 'growing in clumps 2ft high, generally in moist rocky places'. It flowered at Kew in 1852, and was figured in the Botanical Magazine the same year with the varietal epithet roseo-album. The explanation for this quite superfluous addition is that Hooker never saw the species in full flower and sent home to his father at Kew a colour sketch made apparently from a truss in which the flowers had aged to a deep purplish pink, as shown in the plate in Rhododendrons of the Sikkim Himalaya, which was drawn and coloured from his sketch and herbarium specimens.

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