Shrub, 1.5–3.5 m. Leaves 7–13 × 2–4.5 cm, stiff, elliptic, apex acuminate, lower surface with a compacted fawn indumentum embedded in a shining surface film. Flowers c. 8, in a lax truss, pink with a darker median stripe down each lobe, widely campanulate, nectar pouches lacking, c. 40 mm; ovary densely hairy, without glands, style glabrous. Flowering May-June. Royal Horticultural Society (1997).
Distribution China Sichuan
Habitat 2,300–3,000 m
RHS Hardiness Rating H6
Awards AM 1923 (Lady Aberconway and Hon. H.D. McLaren, Bodnant); flowers pink. AM 1990 (E. de Rothschild, Exbury) to a clone 'Annie Darling'; trusses 14-16-flowered, white, strongly marked along the centre of each lobe and lip with red-purple, and with numerous small spots of red in upper throat. AGM 1993
Conservation status Vulnerable (VU)
Taxonomic note The stiff leaves and shining fawn indumentum will distinguish this species. It has not been seen in the wild since it was originally collected by Wilson. Royal Horticultural Society (1997).
An evergreen shrub described by Wilson as from 12 to 18 ft high in the wild, but usually seen in cultivation as a rounded bush of stocky growth. Leaves very hard and firm in texture, narrowly elliptical to lanceolate, sharply pointed, tapered at the base, glossy dark green above, covered beneath with a close silvery down that ultimately turns brown, 2 to 5 in. long, 1⁄2 to 2 in. wide; stalk thick and flattish, 1⁄3 to 3⁄4 in. long. Flowers opening in May in hemispherical trusses 4 to 5 in. wide, carrying fifteen or more flowers. Calyx small, shallowly five-lobed; slightly downy like the flower-stalk, which is up to 2 in. long. Corolla bell-shaped, five-lobed, 2 in. wide, 11⁄4 to 11⁄2 in. deep, soft pink, the upper lobes maroon-spotted; the outside is broadly striped with deep rosy pink. Stamens normally ten, 1⁄3 to 5⁄8 in. long, downy at the base; ovary thickly downy; style glabrous. Bot. Mag., t. 8885. (s. Arboreum ss. Argyrophyllum)
Native of W. Szechwan, China; introduced in 1908 by Wilson, who found it growing on the limestone bluffs of Mt Wu. It had, however, been seen by Henry and Pratt long before. It is an attractive and distinct species, considered to have some affinity with R. arboreum. The deep rosy bands of colour at the back of the corolla (they occur also in R. thayerianum) are very effective; the metallic lustre of the undersurface of the leaf is distinctive. It flowered when only 1 ft high and is very hardy at Kew.
R. insigne received an Award of Merit when shown from Bodnant on June 12, 1923.