Rhododendron nuttallii

Scientific name: Rhododendron nuttallii

Author: Booth (R. sinonuttallii Balf. F. & Forr.) Maddenia Subsection (Maddenii Series)

Common name: Daguo Dujuan

Family: Ricaceae


Rhododendron nuttallii   


Find the somewhat obscure path, at the back of the barbecue area, which leads into the Rhododendron Species beds and a breathtaking experience of fragrance and visual delight; 'the most beautiful' of Booth’s collections will be your reward. You may prefer the alternate opportunity of seeing our feature plant displayed on the Plant Explorers Walk.

‘All the Indian world is in love with my Rhododendron book’, wrote J. D. Hooker from Darjeeling in 1850, and it would seem that the western world were similarly enchanted. Thomas Jonas Booth (1829–post 1861) was dispatched by Kew to Calcutta in 1849. Eager to collect more ‘Rhodondendrons of the Sikkim Himalaya’ and other plants and birds of the area; the imprisonment of Hooker and Campbell dashed this plan. Booth focused instead on Assam and Bhutan, to the east. This border area became, as with many of the explorers of that time, both his treasure trove and a ‘vale of tears’. Two seasons of arduous collecting did result though in the introduction to the West of several rhododendron species, three of which we hold in our collection: Rhododendron nuttallii, named for his uncle, Tomas Nuttall; Rhododendron lindleyi T. Moore, (next to our barbecue area specimen), described by Moore as having a good perfume, a mixture of lemon and nutmeg, and the variable, pink flowered, shrub, Rhododendron virgatum Hook. f., (at the road edge, Visitor Centre side of the barbecue area and almost finished flowering). Booth is also credited with the introduction of R. boothii, R. hookeri, several dendrobium orchids, Agapetes buxifolia, Begonia xanthina and Primula mollis.

R. nuttallii has a wide distribution and range of habitats, north and south of the eastern end of the Great Himalaya Range and north east into Yunnan and Guizhou provinces, China. From 1100-3700 m altitude it occupies evergreen broad leaf monsoon forest and valley forests.

A temperate climate with abundant rain, good drainage and acid soil suits this species in cultivation. It flourishes in California, New Zealand, Melbourne and here at Mount Tomah while British gardeners find it to be one of the ‘least hardy’ rhododendrons.