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 ‘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

Figured are three azaleas, including Optima, with a bright red, single flower.  Paxton's Magazine of Botany p.55, 1845.

Rhododendron indicum ‘Exquisita’, ‘Optima’ and ‘Broughtonii’ | MB p.55/1845 | RBGS


Family Ericaceae
Region of origin

Garden origin, England or Belgium

  • Azalea optima Hort.


Common Name

Indica Azalea

Name in the Camden Park Record

Azalea Indica optima 


Confidence level high