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 ovatum (Lindl.) Planch. ex Maxim.

Medium sized to large evergreen shrub with dark green, hairless leaves, abruptly ovate or heart-shaped at the stalk, and solitary, saucer-shaped, white, pink or purple flowers with purple spots in summer.  To 3.5m.  [RHSD, Hortus, Hilliers', Millais].  

Horticultural & Botanical History

Introduced by Robert Fortune in 1844.  In his original notes on this plant John Lindley states: ‘From Chusan, where Mr. Fortune found two varieties; “the one with white, the other with pink or lilac flowers; both spotted and very beautiful.”

Among the early despatches from Mr. Fortune was received a drawing of this beautiful shrub, which, according to the Chinese artist, has most delicate pink flowers, of the size and form of the Davurian Rhododendron, growing in clusters at the end of the branches.  The original plants did not survive the voyage ; but a packet of seed has furnished an abundance of young plants, which have been distributed extensively to the Fellows of the Society under the name of “Azalea 274.”  The dried specimens received from Mr. Fortune enable the species to be positively determined.  It is entirely different in foliage from all the other Chinese Azaleas; for instead of the pale-green colour and abundant hairs which characterize them all, this has perfectly hairless leaves, unless in the seedling state, and they are of a very dark green.  Their form, too, is quite distinct; for instead of tapering gradually to the stalli they are abruptly ovate, or even in some cases almost heart-shaped.

The plant has been too recently acquired for any knowledge of its true habits to have been gained: but seedlings in the open air have borne the frost of last autumn, and it was considerable on two occasions, without having suffered in the least; and if, as seems probable, the plant should not be inclined to push early, it will not only be a hardy evergreen, but one of the finest in the country.’  [JHS v.1 p.149/1846].

‘A very pretty little shrub, introduced from Northern China by Mr. Fortune, and first described by Dr. Lindley, from both a white- and pale-pink-flowered variety, in 1844.  Our specimens were received from the garden of the Horticultural Society, in June, 1858.  The same species was afterwards found in Hong-Kong by the late Captain Champion, and, from differing in some points from Lindley's description, he named it A. myrtifolia.’  [BM t.5064/1858 as Azalea ovata]. FC p.98/1858.

History at Camden Park

Listed in the 1850 and 1857 catalogues [T.120/1850].


Azalea ovata Lindl. has been related to Rhododendron lapponicum (L.) Wahlenb. [IPNI], common name Lapland Rosebay, from sub-artic and cold temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere.  Lindley’s Azalea ovata is synonymous with Rhododendron ovatum Planch. ex Maxim. but I have found no reference that equates this plant to Rhododendron lapponicum.

Published Jun 10, 2009 - 12:06 PM | Last updated Sep 10, 2011 - 04:54 PM

figured is an azalea with pink flowers with small darker spots.  Curtis's Botanical Magazine t.5064, 1858.

Rhododendron ovatum Planch. ex Maxim. | BM t.5064/1858 | BHL


Family Ericaceae
Region of origin


  • Azalea ovata Lindl. 


Common Name
Name in the Camden Park Record

Azalea ovata 


Confidence level high