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Species In Our Midst
Rhododendron anwheiense

by Sally Perkins

Rhododendron anwheiense
Picture by S & J Perkins
Rhododendron anwheiense in Salem, NH

Rhododendron anwheiense

This wonderful elepidote rhododendron has been treated as a subspecies of R. maculiferum, been placed in the Irroratum Series, and has even suffered the political fallout of province name changes by China. This author is still not certain if R. anhweiense or R. anwheiense is the correct spelling. Be that as it may, it was collected in 1923 by H. K. Ip on the Wang-shan River in Anhwei province in eastern China. Its specific epithet denotes the Anhui province (formerly Anhwei), where it commonly grows on open rocky places in thickets and on cliffs at 4000-6000 feet.

In cultivation, R. anwheiense forms a rounded shrub 3-4 feet tall in 10 years, hiding its knees with shiny recurved leaves that typically are glabrous above and below. It can eventually reach upwards of 12 feet in its native habitat. Cox mentions its poor leaf color and chlorosis but I have not seen that problem in New England and consider the foliage very attractive. In early mid-season, the funnel-bell shaped blossoms, a little over an inch in length, hang in a loose truss of 8-12 and range in color from white to pink with some red spotting in the throat. As a species it is reportedly floriferous, blooming younger than most species, and heat tolerant. The only hybrid commonly available is 'Blewbury' (anwheiense x roxieanum var. oreonastes) which blooms so early in the season that it can suffer frost damage to the buds if unprotected. Locally P4M often has this species propagated and lists a dwarf selection by the late Dr. Serbin, and a pink RSF form 65/245 from Stronachullin Garden.

I have grown seedlings outdoors (not recommended) and was amazed at their hardiness. Plant and bud hardiness is at least -10°F, which is surprising considering its origin is mostly Zone 8. R. anwheiense is an interesting species in its own right, worth reconsidering for hybridizing, and certainly a worthy specimen for the milder New England rhododendron garden.

Sally Perkins, Salem, NH

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