Hedychium densiflorum 'Assam Orange'

Accepted name

Hedychium densiflorum 'Stephen'


Comments 'Assam Orange' is one of the best Hedychium for the open garden being very hardy and free-flowering.

The plant known as 'Assam Orange' originated as wild material collected by Frank Kingdon Ward on 8th July 1938 from the Phutang/Balipura Frontier track between Arunachal Pradesh and Assam in India at an altitude of about 2,000m (KW 13875). It was originally considered to be a plant for the warm greenhouse but material from the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh was planted out at Wakehurst Place in Surrey and proved to be remarkably hardy. The plant received an RHS Award of Merit in 1974 and was given its cultivar name but it does not currently have an AGM.

From: Tony Schilling, A survey of cultivated Himalayan and Sino-himalayan Hedychium species. The Plantsman 4 (3): 129 - 149. (1982).
from page 135 - 136:

It would seem that the first recorded living collection of [Hedychium densiflorum] was made by Frank Kingdon Ward (KW 13875) from the Phutang/Balipara Frontier track at an altitude of a little over 2,000 m (6,500 ft) on 8 July, 1938. This collection is almost undoubtedly the plant figured in Curtis's Bot. Mag. n.s.t. 325 and described by W. B. Turrill as 'a plant for the warm greenhouse in this country'. Plants of this Kingdon Ward collection have all originated from an accession at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh. Approximately 10 years ago material of this form was established out of doors in a south facing border at Wakehurst Place and proved to be a hardy plant for Sussex culture. In 1974 it received an Award of Merit and was appropriately given the name of 'Assam Orange'. Its flowers are of a deep orange, sweetly scented and are produced on an exceptionally dense spike. This clone came through the 1981/82 winter at Wakehurst totally unprotected, except for the occasional light covering of snow, and plants sent several years ago to Wisley, Windsor and Sissinghurst Castle have also survived extreme winter temperatures in the open garden.

'Assam Orange' has flowers of a strong orange colour and a much larger inflorescence than average for Hedychium densiflorum. The fruits of 'Assam Orange' are an attractive feature of the plant after the flowers have faded, splitting when ripe to reveal the orange linings and seeds enclosed in bright red arils.

It is difficult to distinguish some unnamed orange forms of Hedychium densiflorum from true 'Assam Orange'. We are not at all convinced of the "rule" that flowers of 'Assam Orange' open from the base of the inflorescence to the top up while ordinary Hedychium densiflorum opens from the top down. We have never yet seen an Hedychium densiflorum open from the top down. Given that 'Assam Orange' seeds freely it may be that some material labelled 'Assam Orange' in the trade is seed derived whereas true 'Assam Orange' is clonal. It is regrettable that some seedsmen are offering seed of 'Assam Orange' as the use of seed risks degrading the cultivar.

The nursery KobaKoba obtained authentic KW 13875 from a garden in Scotland which passed into the trade but whether or not the designation has been maintained is not known.

A comparison between 'Assam Orange' and 'Stephen' is here.

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last updated 25/09/2008