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 nudiflorum ‘Coccinea Major’

Treated here as a cultivar of Rhododendron nudiflorum Torr. but may be naturally occurring. Millais describes Rhododendron nudiflorum, from eastern North America, as a deciduous shrub, to 3m, which produces clusters of 6 or more faintly scented, white to purple flowers.  The leaves appear after the flowers.  Coccinea major has scarlet flowers.

Horticultural & Botanical History

Figured in Loddiges’ Botanical Cabinet as Azalea coccinea major.  ‘A native of north America.  It has been in cultivation near London for a considerable time, but is not so well known as its exquisite beauty deserves.  In habit it is much stronger and more rigid than the common scarlet.  It is also hardier, and in every respect a superior plant.’  [LBC no.624/1822].  ‘Whether the variety of the Azalea nudiflora here figured, was originally introduced to this country by Mrs. Norman of Bromley in Kent, or Mr. Bewick of Clapham in Surrey (both celebrated for their collections of American plants) we cannot with certainty assert; true it is, the Azalea coccinea was little known here till the sale of Mr. Bewick’s plants in 1782; a considerable number of these shrubs formed the choisest part of the collection, and sold at high prices, one of them produced twenty guineas: prior to this period, Mr. Bewick had presented one of the same sort of shrubs to Mr. Thoburn, the fruits of whose skills and assiduous care in the cultivation of American plants are apparent in his late nursery at Brompton, now Mr. Whitley’s, and from the produce of which plant our figure was taken.  The original species, found abundantly in the more southern parts of North America, was introduced, according to Mr. Aiton’s account, by Peter Collinson, Esq. about the year 1734.  Brilliancy of colour and a happy combination of form unite in rendering [Azalea nudiflora var. coccinea] one of the most beautiful plants in nature: yet it wants the fragrance of some of the varieties of the viscosa’.  [BM t.180/1792].  ‘Coccinea major’ was considered ‘one of the best scarlets’ by The Gardeners Chronicle.  [Gard. Chron. 1853 and 1855]. 

History at Camden Park

Probably short lived in the gardens as it is only listed in the 1845 catalogue.


Azalea coccinea major is possibly a Ghent hybrid.  Known by the collective name Rhododendron x gandavense, Ghent hybrids are crosses between Rhododendron calendulaceum, the ‘Flame azalea’, R. nudiflorum, ‘Pinxterbloom azalea’, R. flavus, ‘Pontic azalea’, R. viscosum, ‘Swamp azalea’ plus others, predominantly North American species.  They are very hardy, upright, tall azaleas which bloom late-or mid-late-season, flowers 4cm to 5.5cm wide, with a long tube, usually fragrant.  They originated mainly in Belgium between 1830 and 1850.  [RHSD].  The 1836 Loddiges’ Nursery catalogue, a copy of which is held at Camden Park, lists Azalea hybridae-belgicae coccinea maxima, which lends some support for this hypothesis, however, I think it more likely that Macarthur grew Loddiges’ Azalea coccinea major.

Hortus Second describes R. coccineum speciosa as a horticultural name for a form of Rhododendron gandavense or R. mortieriR. coccineum major is also given as a synonym for R. speciosum.  [See notes on Rhododendron calendulaceum (Michx.) Torr. var. speciosa].

Galle hypothesizes that coccinea major is a Southern Indian Hybrid, possibly a form of Rhododendron indicum with reddish orange flowers, to 6cm across.  This may be the plant grown by Macarthur but I think it unlikely.

Published Jun 08, 2009 - 05:24 PM | Last updated Sep 11, 2011 - 03:33 PM

Figured is a single azalea with scarlet, long-tubed flowers.  Curtis's Botanical Magazine t.180, 1792.

Rhododendron nudiflorum ‘Coccinea Major’ | BM t.180/1792 as Azalea nudiflora coccinea, the Scarlet Azalea | BHL


Family Ericaceae
Region of origin

North America

  • Azalea coccinea major Hort.
  • Azalea lutea L. coccinea major
  • Rhododendron nudiflorum Torr. var. coccinea major


Common Name

Pinxterbloom azalea

Name in the Camden Park Record

Azalea coccinea major 


Confidence level medium