R. wrightianum var. cyclopense x 'Ne Plus Ultra'
Pete Sullivan, Strybing Arboretum, San Francisco
x 'Ne Plus Ultra'
Photo by J. P. Evans, M.D.
Without taking the time to enlarge upon the statement, it can be said that no group of plants in the plant kingdom has such a diverse, and yet what is as important, such a compatible gene pool as that found within the Vireya section of the Rhododendron genus. In the case of this cross made at Strybing Arboretum this fact is again demonstrated in a unique way.
Rhododendron wrightianum var cyclopense was collected by the Sleumer 1961 expedition while in the Cyclops Mountains of New Guinea. Along with other valuable species we were fortunate in obtaining scions of this specie. It grew hesitatingly for us, undoubtedly because of its epiphytic history, finally blooming in 1965. At the outset it was evident that the truss would have to be considered a classic, however, because of the foregoing, it's horticultural future would be in doubt.
Rhododendron 'Ne Plus Ultra' was in our possession, having been received from the National Arboretum, which organization had providentially collected and propagated a good number of the old Veitch collection of Javanicum series hybrids. This hybrid is a winner in any collection, with bright red coloring and good truss structure and very vigorous growth.
Our cross is very satisfactory. The flowers are twice the size of the specie and retain its very desirable pendulous structure. And it has what we were after, i.e. vigor enough to present this flower idea in a horticulturally useable plant. It will be hardy for the three or five million people living in the San Francisco Bay Area and for any similar climate in the world. It should make a fit container subject; we would estimate three feet of growth in five or six years.