Rodgersia pinnata is a large, spreading perennial with bold divided leaves, tall branching lower stems, and masses of small pink flowers.
About this species
Rodgersia pinnata is a perennial that forms spreading clumps of bold, divided, strongly-veined leaves, and has tall flower stems with feathery sprays of small, pink flowers. The whole plant is coarse and upright, and forms a striking feature in a damp position. R. pinnata was named and described by the French botanist Adrien Franchet in 1888, while studying the collections that were made between Dali and Lijiang in Yunnan by the French explorer, Père Delavay. Seeds of R. pinnata were sent to Kew by the Irish plantsman Augustine Henry in 1898, and first flowered there in 1902. Henry collected the seed north of Mengtze in western Yunnan, where plants were found growing on cliffs at 2,438 m.
Geography & Distribution
Native to western China, where it is found in Yunnan, Guizhou and southern and eastern Sichuan, at 2,000–3,800 m above sea level.
A stout perennial with a thick, shortly creeping rhizome (underground stem), eventually forming large, spreading clumps. The leaves are up to 1 m long and are pinnate (divided into leaflets), with 2–4 leaflets on either side and a similar terminal leaflet, and sometimes with a whorl of four leaflets at the base. The leaflets are oblanceolate, ribbed and up to 20 cm long. The flowering stems are 60–125 cm long, with three or four stem leaves. The inflorescence is compound, with cyme-like branches. The flowers are around 5 mm across and are white, pale pink or reddish, with 5 glandular-hairy sepals, and no petals. Each flower has ten stamens (male parts) and two styles (female parts). The fruit is a purple capsule about 7 mm long.
Illustration from Curtis's Botanical Magazine
Hand-coloured lithograph of Rodgersia pinnata by J.N. Fitch after a watercolour by Matilda Smith (1903), taken from Curtis's Botanical Magazine (Image: RBG Kew)
Curtis’s Botanical Magazine (Editor: Martyn Rix) provides an international forum of particular interest to botanists and horticulturists, plant ecologists and those with a special interest in botanical illustration.
Now well over two hundred years old, the Magazine is the longest running botanical periodical featuring colour illustrations of plants. Each four-part volume contains 24 plant portraits reproduced from watercolour originals by leading international botanical artists. Detailed but accessible articles combine horticultural and botanical information, history, conservation and economic uses of the plants described.
Published for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew by Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.
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Rodgersia pinnata is cultivated as an ornamental for damp soils. The crushed roots of a related species, R. aesculifolia, are used in Chinese herbal medicine for treating malignant sores.
Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage
Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life world wide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.
Number of seed collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank: One.
This species at Kew
Rodgersia pinnata can be seen growing alongside streams in the Rock Garden at Kew, where it flowers from June to September.
Pressed and dried specimens of Rodgersia pinnata, including some collected by Père Delavay and Ernest Wilson, are held in Kew’s Herbarium, where they are available to researchers from around the world, by appointment. The details of some of these specimens, including images, can be seen on-line in the Herbarium Catalogue.
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