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Species In Our Midst
Rhododendron proteoides

by Frank Brako


Rhododendron proteoides
Picture by S & J Perkins
Rhododendron proteoides in Whidbey Island, WA


Rhododendron proteoides

Rhododendron proteoides is a large leafed or elepidote rhododendron in Subgenus Hymenanthes, Section Ponticum, Subsection Taliensia. It is allied with R. roxieanum, but differs in that R. proteoides has smaller leaves and more dwarf habit. For our area, it is probably one of the most choice, indeed rare, collector's plants, especially for the rock or shade garden.

Rhododendron proteoides was first found in Yunnan by George Forrest in September 1914. It grows in the wild at altitudes of 12,000-15,000 feet. The plant is characterized by slow growth, dense wooly cinnamon or rust colored indumentum of leaves on long, narrow, spirally twisted branches. Hardy to USDA Hardiness Zone 3, it is an excellent plant for rock gardens with its white, pale yellow, or rose flowers with crimson spots, which first bloom after being in the garden for about 40 years! It is grown for its superb form and foliage.

The slow growth and handsome, close set, narrowly oblong or narrowly oblanceolate leaves make this a very desirable plant, since demand always exceeds supply. The Rhododendron Species Foundation has offered grafted specimens in the past for $50 when it is available.

Frank Brako, Acton, MA


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