Rhododendron indicum ‘Optima’
Probably a cultivar or hybrid of Rhododendron indicum Sweet. Galle lists two azaleas named ‘Optima’. The first is a late flowering amoena hybrid with large, deep pink flowers which may correspond the plant named Optima figured in Paxton's Magazine of Botany [MB p.55/1845]. The flowers are bright scarlet with deeper spots. English bred, its parents are unknown. This is similar to Azalea optima described in the Floricultural Cabinet: ‘Bright rosy-scarlet; flower large and showy. the plant six feet by four.’ [FC p.137/1848], and: ‘Fine orange, with darker blotch on upper segment; flower large, good form, and very showy.’ [FC p.148/1850]. This is probably Macarthur’s plant. Wilson & Rehder provide some information on the probable origins of this plant. ‘Azalea “Optima” with dark scarlet flowers [and] Azalea “Prince Albert” […] were undoubtedly derivatives of R. simsii and representatives of the “Indian Azaleas” of to-day, and the first introductions into America [in 1847] as far as I can discover.’ [Wilson & Rehder p.48].
Galle’s second azalea is an old Ghent Hybrid with yellowish-white flowers, edged reddish-orange, and with a yellow blotch. This is unlikely to be Macarthur’s plant.
Horticultural & Botanical History
For more information on Indica Azaleas see Rhododendron indicum Sweet.
History at Camden Park
Listed in the 1850 and 1857 catalogues [T.112/1850]. Obtained from Kew Gardens, brought out from England by Captain P. P. King in 1849. In the confirmatory list sent by Macarthur to King it is marked with a ‘o’, meaning new to the colony, but with a superimposed cross. The latter may mean that Macathur subsequently learned that it was not new to the colony. [ML A1980-3]. It was also included among desiderata to Loddiges’ Nursery, 13th February, 1848 [MP A2933-1, p.172] and is not amongst those notated ‘died’ although it was requested again on the 1st February, 1849 [MP A2933-1, p.185].
Published Jun 06, 2009 - 04:45 PM | Last updated Sep 12, 2011 - 03:18 PM