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Species In Our Midst
Rhododendron adenopodum

by John and Sally Perkins

Rhododendron adenopodum RSF 76/142
Picture by Henk Borsje
Rhododendron adenopodum RSF 76/142 in Duxbury, MA

Rhododendron adenopodum

This elepidote species is native to E. Sichuan and Hubei provinces of China, growing in rocky woods at elevations of 5000-7000 feet. It was discovered by the French missionary, the Abbé Farges, and described by Franchet in 1895. Wilson introduced it in 1900 and recorded it as being rare in western Hubei.

An elepidote (having no scales), it was formally a member of the Ponticum Series. It has been reclassified into the Argyrophylla subsection along with hunnewellianum, thayerianum, and insigne. The epithet 'adenopodum' refers to the flower stalk (pedicel) being densely glandular with long stalked glands.

The plant habit is spreading, broader than tall reaching 4-10 feet (1-3 m) high. Young shoots and leaves are densely tomentose with whitish or fawn tomentum. The leaf tomentum disappears with maturity but the underside of the leathery leaves is covered in thick felty or woolly indumentum. The whitish, fawn, or brown indumentum is formed by two layers of hairs and short stalked glands. The long narrow leaves are up to 7 inches long and only 1 to 2 inches wide.

Trusses of 6-10 funnel-campanulate flowers are presented in a candelabroid umbel. The 5 lobed flower may be up to 2 1/2 inches long, pale rose in color with occasional spotting. Bloom time is early mid-season. Hardiness is rated at-10°F(-23°C).

It is offered through the Chapter's Van Veen order and is often available in the Plants-4-Members sale. Because of its heat tolerance, it seems to be offered by more nurseries in the South.

Despite its obvious positive attributes as an excellent foliage plant, R. adenopodum has not been used extensively in hybridizing (or at least registered hybrids are few). There are three hybrids registered that have R. adenopodum parentage: 'Anna Caroline Gable' (Gable) (adenopodum x degronianum ssp. heptamerum) 'Ginny Beale' (degronianum ssp heptamerum x adenopodum), and 'Markeeta' (Goheen) selected open pollinated R. adenopodum. A named form, `Dr. Rock,' is listed in Plants-4-Members but generally there are few named forms or selections available.

Sally and John Perkins, Salem, NH

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