History of Rhododendron
Looking back to earlier days of rhododendron studies it
may be revealed that the first Rhododendron was classified and
named during 16th century. and the species was R. hirsutum and
was discovered by a Flemish botanist, Charles l'Ecluse, (Clusius).
Also known as alpine rose, R. hirsutum became the first
species to be put under cultivation by the year 1656 in some
pockets of Britain. It is learned that the practice came up as
a result of a partnership between English Quaker Peter
Collinson and botanist/farmer John Bartram of Pennsylvania.
The relation has later also assisted in introduction of
American natives Rhododendrons like R. canescens, R.
nudiflorum, and R. viscosum in to England during 1734, and R.
maximum. R. ferrugineum, during 1736 later another species
from the European Alps also called the Alpine Rose, came along
in 1752. Species R. ponticum was identified in Spain by Claes
Alstoemer in around 1750 and it reached England in 1763.
While Linnaeus brought order to the genus Rhododendron in
1753.The German naturalist Pallas described three rhododendron
species native to eastern Europe and to Asia viz: R. dauricum
in 1780, R. flavum in 1793, and R. chrysanthum in 1796.By 1800
there were only twelve species known in cultivation. Gifts
from the Russian collector, Count Pushkin, R. caucasicum and
R. obtusum arrived in England in 1803 and R. minus came from
America in the first few years of the new century.
Rhododendrons which started for from southeastern Asia to England
was the tree species, R. arboreum, with blood-red flowers,
which was discovered by Captain Hardwicke in 1799 this species
was also introduced from India in 1811. In 1823 R. molle,
destined to become famous as one of the parents of the Mollis
hybrids, was made to move to England from China. In 1832 R.
zeylanicum got into England from Ceylon. Species introduced
in to England from Himalayan regions of Nepal and Sikkim are
R. campanulatum and R. barbatum which were introduced in 1825
and 1849 respectively.
The major rhododendron wealth were exposed from north eastern
Himalayas with the coming out of the works of Sir Joseph
Hooker by 1850 a document having descriptions on magnificent
It was during 1849 and 1850 when Sir Joseph Hooker's routed to
Sikkim in the eastern Himalayas discovering as many as
forty-five new species like yellow-flowered R. campylocarpum
and R. wightii; the red-flowered R. thomsonii; the small
trees, R. falconeri, R. grande, and R. hodgsonii, with their
enormous leaves; the epiphytes, R. dalhousiae and R. maddenii;
the large vigorous R. griffithianum with massive white
flowers; and the interesting R. triflorum, R. edgeworthii, R.
fulgens, R. niveum, R. wallichii, R. lanatum, R. glaucophyllum,
R. cinnabarinum, and R. lepidotum. while species like R.
hookeri and R. nuttalli reported from Bhutan by Booth during
1852.Like wise in 1855 Robert Fortune discovered R. ovatum in
1854 and R. fortunei in 1855 in Chekiang, China the one that
has become foundation for other hardy series of hybrids on
In 1881 discoveries of French Catholic missionaries ( Pere
Armand David, Pere Jean Marie Delavay and Farges) with the
identification of species like R. davidii, R. delavayi, R.
fargesii, and R. souliei h added to next step of encouragement
in research with Rhododendrons. Delavay also discovered R.
ciliicalyx, R. fictolacteum, R. lacteum, R. neriiflorum, and
R. campylogynum in 1884; R. crassum and R. haematodes in 1885;
R. bullatum, R. irroratum, and R. heliolepis in 1886; R.
sulfureum in 1887; and R. racemosum, R. spinuliferum,and R.
rubiginosum and R. yunnanense in 1889; all in Yunnan, China.
And Farges discovered R. adenopodum in Szechuan/Hupeh, China.
Rev. Souliei discovered R. chasmanthum and R. vernicosum in
1893, R. saluense in 1894, and R. wardii in 1895, in Yunnan,
China. Rev. Ernest Faber discovered R. concinnum in Yunnan,
China, in 1886. Also In 1885 Baron Ungern-Sternberg discovered
two species called R. smirnowii and R. ungernii.
Later in 1904 George Forrest and Reginald Farrer
discovered R. haemaleum and R. strigillosum in 1904; R.
forrestii in 1905; R. oreotrephes in 1906; R. fulvum and R.
sinogrande in 1912; R. puralbum, R. scintillans, and R.
russatum in 1913; R. griersonianum and R. meddianum in 1917;
R. keleticum and R. scyphocalyx in 1919; and R. taggianum in
1925. F. Kingdon-Ward discovered R. chryseum in 1912; R.
hippophaeoides in 1913; R. megacalyx and R. calostrotum in
1914; R. leucaspis and R. valentinianum ; R. pemakoense in
1924 and R. recurvoides in 1926. Farrer discovered R.
sperabile in 1919, R. caloxanthum in 1919 and R. tephropeplum
in 1920. Later two new species like R. concatenans and R.
xanthocodon were identified for seeds collection by
Kingdom-Ward. It was how the Rhododendron genus gathered its
The Indian History of the Genus is not aligned. It was however
started with the visit of Caption Hardwick to the Siwalik
Mountains of Srinagar, Kashmir in 18796 where from he reported
species arboreum. This species was later fully described by
Sir James Smith in Exotic Botany in the ear 1805.Being
introduced this species' seeds into England , interest over
studies in Rhododendrons of Himalayan and Indian land got its
peak. During 1848-1850 Sir J.D.Hooker was here in India to get
the depth of species available. During his stay he could
covered as wide as Sikkim Himalayan region, Darjeeling, and
detailed about 34 new species with a total of 43 species being
described from Indian region. The monograph entitled
"Rhododendrons of Sikkim-Himalaya, an exclusive work till date
has an illustrative account of his work A number of workers
have tried to described and study them from different point of
view and have also strived to identify new species of
Rhododendrons in this Himalayan region. To name a few works of
Major E.W.M. Magor(1986);Ludlow & Sherriff(1933); Mr. & Mrs.
Peter Cox and Sir Petrer Hutchison (1958); Simon
Bowes-Lyon(1959); Derek Fox(1979); Mr. & Mrs. E.G.
Millias(1982); a Alpine Garden Society team(1983); and more
recently Pradhan & Lachungpa(1990) are note worthy
Amongst the many
floral treaties of Sikkim Himalaya one of the earliest ones may be
found over the genus Rhododendron (Gk. rhodo = red, dendrons = tree
known for their brilliance in colors, unusual shapes
attractive growth habits, variety in fragrance and
exquisite beauty can attract any nature lovers.
with its total geographical area of 7,096 sq km is
bestowed with a huge diversity of flora and fauna.