Rhododendron ‘Cornubia’

Today’s entry was written by Douglas Justice, UBC Botanical Garden’s Curator of Collections. Douglas writes:

Rhododendron ‘Cornubia’ is one of the few hybrid rhododendrons cultivated in the UBC Botanical Garden collection. The parentage of this beautiful plant includes three Himalayan species, all of them superb in their own right and all of them cultivated in our collection. The cross is Rhododendron ‘Shilsonii’ (Rhododendron barbatum × Rhododendron thomsonii) × Rhododendron arboreum ‘Blood Red’. ‘Cornubia’ is not a common plant locally and is notoriously shy to flower, especially when winters are cold. Our specimen, which was a bit of a mystery plant for many years, is located in the David C. Lam Asian Garden where it is growing exceptionally well, and now blooming with some regularity.

The focus in the Asian Garden has always been on species rhododendrons, but for the past twenty or so years, our attention has increasingly shifted to the cultivation of plants of known provenance (i.e., from documented wild-collected seed). Hardly the place for a hybrid rhododendron, but ‘Cornubia’ had only flowered once or twice since it had been planted in the early 1990s, and until about ten years ago, when it was finally identified, it had an old label that identified it as Rhododendron fulgens, which it clearly was not. One of the problems with a large rhododendron collection (or any collection of plants for that matter) is that identifications need to be verified, labels applied, and records kept up to date. The process has to be repeated periodically, because, as everyone knows, plant names change, specimens are moved and labels are inevitably lost (or stolen). From a curatorial perspective, we know better than to be doctrinaire about the “purity” of our collections. It’s a beautiful plant. It’s correctly labeled, and growing well. We’ll keep it where it is.

Rhododendron 'Cornubia'
Rhododendron 'Cornubia'

10 responses to “Rhododendron ‘Cornubia’”

  1. Love Albrecht Howard

    STUNNING RHODY!!! So sorry it wouldn’t be hardy here in New England, but delighted that you’re enjoying such a glorious plant. Thanks for sharing it through Botany Photo of the Day!

  2. Ron B

    Usually depicted as a “California Special”. When I was going to rhododendron meetings in the 1970s a truss was brought to a January session from an estate garden that was just above the water in Seattle. This mild location was also being used to grow other tender rhododendrons outdoors.

  3. Don Fenton

    I was disgusted a couple of years ago to visit one our local Botanic Gardens to discover that someone[s] had willfully pulled out labels and thrown them around, or, [worse] put them in with inappropriate plants. Accurate labelling is difficult enough as it is!

  4. Gabrielle

    I verify, catalog, and label the plants for our small Botanical Gardens and Conservatory. It is definitely an ongoing process, for all of the reasons mentioned!
    Thank you for this wonderful blog and all of the work that goes into it. I look forward to it every day.

  5. Katherine

    It’s beautiful. I’m so glad you are going to keep it even though it does not fit in with your collection’s goals/mission. Flexibility is an asset in both plants and gardeners.

  6. Eric Simpson

    One of the things I miss most about the six years I lived in Eureka is the rhody that’s in the backyard. Every year it bloomed so densely that it looked like a giant ball of cotton candy! And when the petals were shed (all within a couple of weeks), much of the ground of the little yard was solid pink. Every year the people working on the annual Rhodedendron Parade would come and harvest a couple of armloads of flower clusters (I was so proud;-). Don’t think I’d have much luck with a rhody now that I’m back home in coastal San Diego County.-(

  7. Yanamara

    I am looking for a replacement for a dying white/cream dwarf Rhododendren. This one would be the perfect one.
    So vibrant…I love it.

  8. Jonathan Landsman

    Red rhodies are extremely rare, I think. I worked for a while at a garden that specialized in the Rhododendron genus and I’m not sure we had any pure reds—the difference between “stop sign red” and the many “reds” with a significant amount of pastel/purple in them is notable.
    ‘Cornubia’ is pretty close to red if not the real thing—it’s so hard to tell from digital photos. I don’t know why, but my camera, too, is always messing up purple/blue tones in flowers. In your photos, I see the top one is redder than the bottom, but the bottom’s leaves seem to be bluer—so which is the “true” color?
    I wanted to mention that I’ve only once seen a (maybe) redder rhodie than this: ‘Taurus’, at Planting Fields on Long Island, NY. The closer I got to it, the harder it was to capture it as red, but it was the real thing in person.

  9. Daniel Mosquin

    Jonathan, the bottom one is a truer colour in partial shade, the top one is a truer colour in direct sunlight — note the difference in the density of the shadows between the two images.

  10. Richard Fairfield

    Wonderful flower from a hybrid I had never heard of. I found it when I saw this rhody blooming for the first time for me (from an adopted plant) and went looking for a label.. The cross is Moonstone x Cornubia, crossed by Wyrens.

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