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Shrub, 0.6-2 m; young shoots scaly, also covered with filiform hairs. Leaves 2.5-4 x 0.7-1.3 cm, narrowly elliptic, upper surface covered with filiform hairs only, lower surface shining, white-papillose, glabrous except for a few hairs along the midrib, scales scattered, rimless. Flowers 2-3, in an axillary inflorescence; calyx rim-like, scaly, ciliate; corolla pink or white edged with pink, openly funnel-shaped, 10-15 mm, outer surface glabrous and lacking scales; stamens 10; ovary densely scaly, sparsely pilose, style impressed, declinate. Flowering April-May. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)
Distribution China N Yunnan, SW Sichuan
Habitat 2,900-4,300 m
RHS Hardiness Rating H5
Conservation status Near threatened (NT)
Taxonomic note This species is closely allied to R. mollicomum but differs in its smaller flowers and in the less densely hairy leaf lower surfaces. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)
An evergreen shrub 2 to 3 (sometimes 4 or 5) ft high, with slender, softly downy young shoots. Leaves oblong to narrowly ovate or oblanceolate, pointed, tapered at the base to a very short stalk; margins recurved; 1 to 11⁄2 (sometimes 2) in. long, 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 (sometimes 3⁄4) in. wide; dull green and downy above, glaucous and scaly but downy only on the midrib beneath. Flowers produced in April usually in pairs from several of the terminal leaf-axils, constituting altogether a crowded cluster 11⁄2 to 2 in. wide. Calyx saucer-shaped, not lobed, scaly like the flower-stalk which is 1⁄4 in. long. Corolla white to pale rose, 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 in. wide, funnel-shaped at the base with five broadly ovate lobes. Stamens ten, slightly downy towards the base; ovary scaly, style glabrous. (s. Scabrifolium)
R. hemitrichotum was described from a specimen collected by Forrest in the Muli mountains of S.W. Szechwan at 12,000 ft in July 1918 and was introduced by him the following winter (F.16250). Kingdon Ward sent seeds from the same area three years later (KW 4050), and there have been later sendings from S.W. Szechwan and also from Yunnan. In describing this species, Balfour compared it with R. mollicomum (q.v.), from which it differs in the white underside of the leaves. This character it shares with R. racemosum, and Davidian has pointed out that the two are closely allied. The chief distinction is that R. hemitrichotum is a more downy species; typically, too, it has the leaves much narrower than in R. racemosum, but this is a less reliable character for distinguishing the two species. It flowers quite young when raised from seed, sometimes in three or four years. It is hardy at Kew, having grown there in the open air since 1922.