This striking rhododendron with its crimson flowers grows in the mountainous border region between Northern India and Southwestern China. Rhododendron pocophorum is often found at the edge of bamboo and conifer forests in open rocky slopes and meadows.
It has a perfect aesthetic if you like the understated - a graceful mid-sized shrub with both leaves and flowers beautifully shaped. Easy on the eye too. A see-through plant, not one jammed with branches and flowers.
IUCN lists Rhododendron pocophorum as Vulnerable, which means it has a high risk of extinction in the wild. Its numbers have decreased and become more fragmented. A key role of many botanical gardens is to carry plants at risk. VanDusen Gardens has a number of these plants, and they flourish in our temperate climate.
According to ‘The Red List of Rhododendrons’ by Gibbs, Chamberlain and Argent, the rhododendron centre of diversity on the border region between China, India, Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam has historically been difficult to access and still is today. The challenges of working in the mountains and security issues haven’t changed. They expect new species and populations will continue to come out of these border areas. We might get a few more gems to accompany our subtle crimson beauty.
The pictures were taken at VanDusen in March, except for the winter leaf one.
Text and photos by Hughie Jones