Shrub, 0.5–2 m. Leaves 3.5–5.2 × 1–1.5 cm, apex acute, upper surface persistently scaly, lower surface pale green, papillose, scales distant, unequal, golden and brown, with broad rims. Flowers (1–)2–3, in a loose terminal inflorescence that has a 3–12 mm rhachis; calyx lobes narrowly triangular, to 4 mm, not ciliate but fringed with scales; corolla white, narrowly funnel-shaped, c.20 mm, outer surface lacking scales, glabrous; stamens 10; ovary impressed below the decimate, glabrous style. Flowering April-May.
This species has a restricted distribution in the wild and is rare in cultivation. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)
Distribution China C Sichuan
Habitat 1,300–2,300 m
RHS Hardiness Rating H4
Conservation status Vulnerable (VU)
An evergreen shrub up to 6 or 7 ft high, with only slightly scaly young shoots. Leaves narrowly oval or oblanceolate, much tapered towards the base, 3⁄4 to 2 in. long, 1⁄4 to 3⁄4 in. wide, dark dullish green and with a fine network of sunken veins above, quite pale and sprinkled thinly with very small scales beneath; stalk 1⁄8 to 1⁄6 in. long. Flowers produced in March and April, eight to twelve or more crowded in a terminal cluster. Calyx pale green, scaly, five-lobed, the lobes 1⁄12 to 1⁄6 in. long, fringed with hairs. Corolla white or pink, 3⁄4 in. long and wide, with five ovate, bluntish lobes. Stamens ten, unequal, the longest slightly exceeding the corolla, downy at the base; anthers yellow. Ovary scaly; style 1 to 11⁄8 in. long, glabrous, often reddish. (s. Triflorum ss. Yunnanense)
Native of W. Szechwan, China; introduced in 1908 by Wilson, who describes it as growing on cliffs and scrub-clad slopes fully exposed to the sun. Rehder and Wilson write of the great length of the style as ‘most remarkable’; but, compared with some of its newer allies, it does not exceed the corolla to any very notable degree. They considered it to be related to R. micranthum, but that species has much smaller, more numerous flowers in a cluster, smooth stamens, and flowers much later.
This is now placed in subsect. Tephropepla.