Plant ID forum: Rhododendron dauricum??

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Eastern Massachusetts (Zone 5b)
Apr 23, 2017 8:36 AM CST
I'm curious about what physical characteristics can be used to distinguish Rhododendron, as well as about what varieties I have. Maybe, recording what the nursery claimed when you bought it is the only way (physical characteristics vary too much by environment and overlap too much across varieties). But I dislike that answer.

Looking online at various characteristics of varieties, my shrub has characteristics that solidly contradict every variety description I looked at, EXCEPT dauricum. So I'm nearly sure it isn't any of the others for which I found detailed descriptions. But there were many I never looked at and many lacking detailed descriptions. So this is far short of convincing that it is dauricum.

If there is any resource for "similar to" that would list the other varieties to consider, that would be very interesting. Close in the classification tree does not seem to indicate close in observable characteristics.

Mature leaves are mostly around one inch long. The largest leaf on the whole shrub is 1.5 inches long and .75 wide.

Leaves turn reddish brown in the winter and look dead but don't drop. Greenish tint returns randomly to a few leaves during Feb and March but doesn't last. Then in April all the leaves rapidly revert to green.

(As is typically described for dauricum) it flowers significantly earlier in the spring than other rhododendrons in the same location.

Each (of 5 surviving) flower bud produced exactly 3 flowers. I would have thought flowers per truss would be an effective identification detail, but it seems to get little mention online.

Thumb of 2017-04-23/jsf67/17f49a

I think I'm correctly understanding the term "terminal" indicating every flower bud was at the tip of a growing twig (none were directly off the side of thicker branches). In Jan, almost every twig tip had a large flower bud. The remaining few had tiny leaf buds (at least if I'm correct in distinguishing bud types based on similarity to other rhododendrons). In Feb, something ate almost all the flower buds.

Every tip from which a flower bud was eaten is now robustly growing new leaves (as shown in this photo), which seems a surprisingly robust recovery. The few tips that originally had leaf buds are growing similar (but currently smaller) new leaf clusters.

Thumb of 2017-04-23/jsf67/85a631

If I wanted to put photos in this web site's database, do I go with my somewhat supported guess of dauricum? Or top level Rhododendron, since I'm unsure, or what?

Perthshire. SCOTLAND. UK
Region: United Kingdom Plant Identifier
Apr 23, 2017 10:17 AM CST
We grow Rhododendron well as many other sp and named ones.
It is deciduous
It flowers very early on bare wood.
Yours does not seem to match.

Glendoick are world renown growers of Rhodo's this is how they describe it....

"Masses of small frost-resistant bright rose-purple flowers on bare stems in December-February. The first species to bloom here, so great for winter colour."

Another quote RHS....

"with small, dark glossy green leaves and saucer-shaped, purple flowers 4cm in width in mid and late winter"


I would never even hazard a guess on which one you have.
In GB even experts cannot always agree on accurate names with the plant infront of them!

Hope this helps.

[Last edited by Silversurfer - Apr 23, 2017 10:29 AM (+)]
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