Colin Mills, compiler of the Hortus Camdenensis, died in late November 2012 after a short illness. As he always considered the Hortus his legacy, it is his family's intention to keep the site running in perpetuity. It will not, however, be updated in the near future.

Rhododendron indicum ‘Formosa’

Probably a cultivar of Rhododendron indicum Sweet. ‘This species [Rhododendron simsii Planch.] grows in all the temperate parts of China and in south Formosa. […] It delights in rocky places, preferably cliffs, thin, dry woods and thickets, blossoms profusely, and its wealth of red flowers makes it one of the most conspicuous of all shrubs.  The habit is twiggy and much-branched with a maximum height of three metres, but averaging about half this height.’  [Wilson & Rehder p.46].

Horticultural & Botanical History

Wilson & Rehder [p.45] relate Rhododendron indicum Sweet var. formosanum Hayata to Rhododendron simsii Planch., probably as a variety, although this is not clear. Rhododendron simsii was frequently sold as Rhododendron [Azalea] indica at this time.  ‘For nearly a century and a quarter this plant has usurped the name indicum, and in books is almost hopelessly confused with the true R. indicum Sweet, with R. obtusum Planchon and its varieties, and with R. scabron D. Don. […] Sims was the first to figure the Chinese species (Bot. Mag. t.1480/1812) under the erroneous name of Azalea indica, and states that it was a rare plant in England and that the only one that had flowered was in the collection of James Vere Esq.  In the Kew Herbareum there are two specimens from the Jardin de Luxembourg collected in 1822 and 1823.  These are the oldest cultivated specimens I have seen.  Sweet in 1832 gave it a varietal name, and says that the plant was imported in the East India company’s ship “Orwell” from China by Mr. Tate.’  [Wilson & Rehder p.46]. 

History at Camden Park

Desideratum to Loddiges’ Nursery on 13th February 1848 [MP A2933-1, p.172].  Although not notated as died it was requested again on 1st February 1849 [MP A2933-1, p.185].  Macarthur had mixed fortunes with plants received from Loddiges’ and elsewhere at this time and many were dead on arrival.  Some of these are listed in a subsequent letter but it is possible that others arrived alive and were planted in the gardens although never listed in the catalogues.


Azalea indica Formosa may be synonymous with Rhododendron formosum Wall. which see.  

Published Jun 18, 2009 - 02:15 PM | Last updated Sep 07, 2011 - 04:27 PM

Family Ericaceae
Region of origin


  • Rhododendron indicum Sweet var. formosanum Hayata
  • Rhododendron simsii Planch.
  • Azalea indica L. formosa


Common Name

Indica azalea

Name in the Camden Park Record

Azalea indica Formosa 


Confidence level high