Compact shrub, to 1.5 m. Leaves (0.4–)0.6–1.4 × 0.3–0.8 cm, oblong or elliptic to rotund, apex rounded, usually mucronate, lower surface covered with uniformly buff to straw-coloured touching or overlapping scales. Flowers (1–)2–6(–8) per inflorescence; calyx 0.5–2 mm; corolla pale lavender to dark blue, rarely yellowish, hypocrateriform, 8–12(–14) mm; stamens 10, included within tube; ovary scaly, style short, glabrous. Flowering March-May. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)
Distribution China N Yunnan, W Sichuan
Habitat 2,800–4,900 m
RHS Hardiness Rating H6
Awards FCC 1907 (Messrs J. Veitch, Chelsea); flowers rosy lilac.
Conservation status Least concern (LC)
Taxonomic note The short stamens included within the corolla tube characterize this distinctive species. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)
A dwarf evergreen shrub usually 6 to 12 in. high, perhaps ultimately 18 in.; young shoots scurfy, with reddish scales. Leaves roundish ovate, 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 in. long, half or more than half as wide, dark green above, pale beneath, both surfaces covered with glistening scales; leaf-stalk distinctly formed, but only 1⁄12 in. long. Flowers in terminal trusses of frequently five or six; each flower 5⁄8 in. across, violet-purple in the bud state, becoming paler and lilac-coloured after opening. Calyx-lobes five, short, triangular. Corolla with a short tube and five rounded, spreading lobes. Stamens ten, almost entirely included within the corolla-tube, downy at the base. Style shorter than stamens. Bot. Mag., t. 8163. (s. Lapponicum)
R. intricatum was discovered by the Abbé Soulié in W. Szechwan in 1895, some way to the west of Kangting (Tatsien-lu), and was introduced by Wilson in 1904 when collecting for Messrs Veitch. Only three years later, in April 1907, that firm exhibited seedlings a few inches high but full of flower, and the species was straightway awarded a First Class Certificate (but under the erroneous name R. nigropunctatum). It was later reintroduced from the Muli area of S.W. Szechwan by Forrest and by Kingdon Ward.
This rhododendron makes a neat little bush of rounded form suggesting a pygmy tree, and it flowers when only a few inches high; this, together with the colour of the flowers and the profusion in which they are borne, render it a singularly attractive little plant for the rock garden or some such place, where tiny, slow-growing plants are not in danger of being smothered by stronger ones. Coming from high Alpine regions, it is quite hardy.
R. peramabile, mentioned here, becomes a synonym of R. intricatum.
† R. complexum Balf.f. & W.W. Sm. – This species could be confused with R. intricatum, which it resembles in its narrow corolla with the stamens, and usually the style, included in the tube. It differs in the rust-coloured scales on the undersides of the leaves (pale in R. intricatum) and in having usually only six to eight stamens. A native of north-west Yunnan, introduced by Forrest (F.15392), but rare in cultivation.