Small shrub, to 1.5 m; young shoots densely scaly, sometimes with a few hairs. Leaves 2.8–4 × 0.8–1.6 cm, narrowly elliptic to elliptic, apex acute or mucronate, margin not ciliate, upper surface dark shining green, lower surface reddish brown, with dense overlapping scales. Flowers many, in a dense inflorescence; rhachis 10–20 mm; calyx lobes to 1.5 mm, scaly, ciliate; corolla deep pink, rarely pale pink or white, tubular-campanulate, 12–15(–17) mm, outer surface scaly and usually pubescent; stamens 10; style glabrous, up to 2× as long as ovary. Flowering June-July. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)
Distribution Austria France Germany Italy Switzerland
Habitat 1,700–2,500 m
RHS Hardiness Rating H6
Awards AM 1969 (Crown Estate Commissioners, Windsor) as var. album; flowers White. AM 1990 (Valerie Finnis, Kettering, Northants); trusses 12-14-flowered, corolla red-purple, inner surface red-purple.
Conservation status Least concern (LC)
Taxonomic note This, and the related R. hirsutum are known as the Alpenrose. It is also closely allied to R. myrtifolium (q.v.). Royal Horticultural Society (1997)
A dwarf, slow-growing evergreen shrub of close habit, ultimately 3 or 4 ft high and wide, forming a dense hemispherical mass; young shoots covered with rust-coloured scales. Leaves narrow-oblong or oval, tapering at both ends, 1 to 13⁄4 in. long, 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 in. wide; dark glossy green and slightly scaly above, but thickly covered beneath with golden-brown, ultimately rust-coloured scales. Flowers rosy scarlet or deep rose, 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 in. wide and long, produced in June in terminal clusters of six to twelve blossoms; corolla scaly outside, funnel-shaped at the base, with five spreading, oblong lobes; calyx-lobes very short; stamens ten, hairy at the base; flower-stalk 1⁄3 in. long, scaly.
Native mainly of the European Alps and Pyrenees, but also found in the Jura and the mountains of W. Yugoslavia; farther to the south and east it is replaced by R. kotschyi. It avoids limestone, though it may occasionally be found on heavily leached limestone soils or where there is an accumulation of peat over the bedrock. It was in cultivation in Britain in 1740.
Visitors to the Alps well know this shrub as the ‘Alpine rose’, often covering miles of mountainside and making one of the most gorgeous of Alpine pictures in July. It finds the conditions of the Thames Valley too hot and dry for it, but in the cooler midland and northern counties is a charming bush of neat, healthy aspect, flowering freely every summer. It has produced several varieties, some, no doubt, of garden origin, which vary chiefly in the colour of the blossom, but even in a wild state one may notice in a day’s walk many variations of colour between rosy pink and rosy scarlet, and on rare occasions a white-flowered plant.
R. kotschyi – This is the correct name for the species described, not R. myrtifolium Schott & Kotschy (1851), which is antedated by R. myrtifolium Lodd. (1824), a validly published name for R. hirsutum × R. minus.
R. ferrugineum var. album D. Don
R. ferrugineum var. atrococcineum Bean
R. myrtifolium Schott & Kotschy, not Lodd.
R. ferrugineum var. myrtifolium (Schott & Kotschy) Schroeter
R. ferrugineum subsp. myrtifolium (Schott & Kotschy) Hayek