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Another group of plants which are hard to miss are the Rhododendrons. Many large and brightly coloured flowers decorate the forest along the summit trail.

With 26 species, including four endemic species, Mount Kinabalu has the highest number of species in Sabah. Rhododendron buxifolium is a very common species with bright red flowers and round leaves from the subalpine forest, ocurring between 2400 and 3600 m. Together with another endemic species, R. ericoides, this is one of the few species that can be encountered as high as the rock face itself. Rhododendron buxifolium diverged between 0.8 and 5.8 million years ago from other montane species in north Borneo.

Rhododendron buxifolium near Laban Rata

R. buxifolium on the summit plateau


Roughly sharing the same altitude range as the previous species, Rhododendron ericoides has the highest altitude range of the rhododendrons on Mt. Kinabalu: 2400 - 4000 m. It is very easily recognised by the tiny, densely packed, leaves and red tubular flowers. The species diverged from lower and mid montane species from North Borneo between 0.0 an 4.0 million years ago.

R. ericoides


R. acumantitum can be found from 2400-3400.