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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 Sikkim rhododendrons.
   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 America.
    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 community there.
    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 ). 



Rarity Status
L.K Rai Notes


  Orchid known for their brilliance in colors, unusual shapes attractive growth habits, variety in fragrance and exquisite beauty can attract any nature lovers.





The Genus



Medicinal Plant

Sikkim with its total geographical area of 7,096 sq km is bestowed with a huge diversity of flora and fauna. 











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