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An evergreen shrub up to 4 or 5 ft high; young shoots thickly clothed with twisted, bristly hairs. Leaves obovate, rounded at the end, tapered at the base, dark green and glabrous above except when quite young, velvety with a coat of tawny down beneath, 2 to 4 in. long, 1 to 13⁄4 in wide; stalk 1⁄5 in. long, stout, hairy like the shoot. Flowers in clusters of six to ten opening in March and April, on bristly stalks. Calyx red, up to 3⁄8 in. long, with five lobes unequal in shape and size. Corolla bell-shaped, 13⁄4 in. long and 21⁄2 in. wide, deep crimson, five-lobed. Stamens ten, up to 1 in. long, glabrous; anthers chocolate brown. Ovary densely woolly; style glabrous. Bot. Mag., n.s., t. 25 (s. Neriiflorum ss. Haematodes)
R. chaetomallum was discovered by Forrest in 1917–18 on the Mekong-Salween divide, N.W. Yunnan, growing in open thickets and on boulder-strewn slopes at 11,000 to 13,000 ft and was introduced by him at the same time under F. 14987, collected under the sacred mountain Ka-kar-po. From the Mekong it ranges westward across upper Burma and a variety has been discovered in the eastern Himalaya.
It is a variable species, distinguished from other members of the Haematodes subseries by the more or less bristly but not glandular young shoots and petioles, the lax, few-flowered truss, and the tomentose but not glandular ovary. Although a handsome species, it flowers too early for most gardens. The Award of Merit was given on April 7, 1959, to a form with Turkey Red flowers, raised at Exbury from Forrest 25601, collected on the Nmai (E. Irrawaddy)-Salween divide. The wild plants were said to have almost black-crimson flowers.
This is included in R. haematodes as a subspecies. The varieties mentioned are disposed of as follows:
[var. chamaephytum] – Possibly a natural hybrid between R. forrestii (or R. chamaethomsonii) and R. haematodes.
[var. glaucescens] – Included in R. haematodes subsp. chaetomallum.
[var. hemigymnum] – A natural hybrid between R. pocophorum and R. eclecteum – R. × hemigymnum (Tagg & Forr.) Chamberlain.
[var. xanthanthum] – Probably part of hybrid swarms involving R. catacosmum, R. citriniflorum and R. temenium.