A Dwarf Form of Rhododendron keiskei
by Cecil Smith
A number of years ago I acquired a small plant from Roystan, B.C. which was listed as the dwarf form of R. keiskei. (Fig. 48). Looking through the literature which I have, I find but one reference to a dwarf form of this species, and that was merely that it took a prize in a show.
Fig. 48. A dwarf form of R. keiskei
Cecil Smith photo
Fig. 49. The type form of R. keiskei
Cecil Smith photo
The leaves of this plant are about half as long as are those of the type R. keiskei (Fig. 49) but the shape is much the same, and in this respect are very similar. The scales on the under side of the leaves of the two forms are about the same size and distance apart. The outstanding difference is the size of the leaves, and the slower growth. The yearly growth is about two or three inches, and the plant naturally branches well making it compact and dome shaped. Almost every growth terminal sets a bud even when the plant is very small. Several lemon yellow corollas come from each bud, making the whole plant a dash of fine color.
For several years, as a young plant the flowers lasted but a few days and then wilted even in damp weather, but they now seem to hold as long as those of other species which may be in bloom at the same time.
This dwarf form blooms in early March here in the Willamette Valley. The flowers are frosted and prematurely lost about half the time even in a protected location, but it is well worth growing because of its charm, and the scarcity of bloom at that time.
Dr. J. Harold Clarke reports that he has flowered selfed seedlings of the dwarf R. keiskei and that they were very uniform in flower and plant habit. Perhaps in time this small jewel will be accorded the specific rank and title of a separate species.
It seems strange that such a high quality, very slow growing rhododendron has not been publicized or written about in a single article of the many I have read on dwarf rhododendrons.