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Upright, usually dwarf shrub, 1.3-2 m; young shoots covered with adpressed flattened brown hairs. Leaves of one kind, persistent, 1-4 x 0.5-1.5 cm, apex obtuse to acute, mucronulate, both surfaces with adpressed red-brown hairs, lower surface paler; petioles covered with brown bristles. Pedicels covered with shining chestnut-brown hairs. Flowers 3-6 per inflorescence; calyx 1-2 mm; corolla usually purple-rose, occasionally white flushed pink, with crimson flecks, funnel-campanulate, 10-15(-22) mm; stamens 5; ovary densely covered with shining chestnut-brown hairs, style glabrous. Flowering April-May. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)
Distribution Myanmar NE China Yunnan, SW Sichuan, Guizhou Thailand ?
Habitat 1,800-3,050 m
RHS Hardiness Rating H3
Conservation status Data deficient (DD)
Taxonomic note This species has no obvious allies. It is frost sensitive in Britain. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)
An evergreen azalea 1 to 3 (or occasionally up to 6) ft high, of bushy, twiggy habit; young shoots densely clothed with pale, reddish-brown, appressed, flattened, forward-pointing bristles. Leaves oval, ovate, or lanceolate, 1⁄2 to 11⁄2 in. long, 1⁄3 to 3⁄4 in. wide, pointed, of a bronzy tinge when young, bright green above when older and sprinkled with bristles; the lower surface paler and with appressed bristles, especially on the midrib, margins bristly; stalk 1⁄12 to 1⁄8 in. long. Flowers four to six together in terminal clusters opening in April and May. Calyx-lobes five, varying from 1⁄16 to 1⁄6 in. long, covered with bright brown bristles like the flower-stalks, which are 1⁄6 in. long. Corolla pale rosy lilac with carmine or crimson spots on the three upper lobes, 3⁄4 to 11⁄4 in. wide and long, five-lobed, the lobes ovate, spreading, contracted at the base to a cylindrical tube, faintly downy inside. Stamens 5⁄8 to 7⁄8 in. long, downy towards the base; anthers deep rose. Ovary covered with bright brown hairs; style glabrous. (s. Azalea ss. Obtusum)
Native of Yunnan, China; discovered by the Abbé Delavay about 1884, and a little later by Henry. Forrest found it on the eastern flank of the Tali range in 1906, but did not send seeds until 1913. It belongs to the Obtusum group of azaleas, characterised by the forward-pointing appressed bristles on the vegetative parts; the long cylindrical tube of the corolla is distinctive. It is a pretty, free-flowering plant, the flowers sometimes almost white. Only hardy in the south and west.