Shrub, 1-2.7 m. Leaves (4.5-)6-10 x 2-4.5 cm, broadly elliptic, apex apiculate, lower surface covered with a compacted, more or less agglutinated, one-layered, whitish to pale brown indumentum composed of long-rayed stellate hairs, or glabrous at maturity; petioles glabrous, yellow. Flowers 10-15, in a dense truss; calyx c.0.5 mm; corolla white to pale pink, with purple flecks, campanulate, nectar pouches lacking, 25-35 mm; ovary and style glabrous. Flowering April-May. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)
Distribution China Qinghai, Gansu, N & C Sichuan
Habitat 3,050-4,250 m
RHS Hardiness Rating H7
Conservation status Least concern (LC)
An evergreen shrub of very compact, slow growth, forming a close hemispherical bush; young shoots bright yellow, glabrous, stiff, and stout. Leaves oval or obovate, 2 to 4 in. long, 1 to 11⁄2 in. wide, tapered or rounded at the base, pointed; dark green and glabrous above, more or less scurfy, and with netted veins beneath; stalk yellow. Flowers borne in April or May in compact trusses about 3 in. across; stalks up to 1 in. long, glabrous. Calyx inconspicuous. Corolla white or pink, spotted with rose-purple or unspotted, five-lobed, between funnel-shaped and bell-shaped, about 11⁄4 in. across. Stamens ten, glabrous or downy near the base. Ovary and style glabrous and without glands. (s. Lacteum)
Native of W. China; first collected in Kansu by the Russian traveller Przewal-sky, in 1880; introduced to cultivation by way of St Petersburg. Wilson, who found it further south in 1904, observes that it reaches higher altitudes in W. China than any other broad-leaved rhododendron. He found it up to 14,500 ft. Its yellow buds, young shoots, and leaf-stalks combined with its dense close habit make cultivated plants very distinct, but it appears to be very shy-flowering. Some plants have the young shoots balsamic scented.
R. dabanshanense Fang & Wang
Lower surface of leaves glabrous at maturity. Subsp. dabanshanense apparently only differs from subsp. przewalskii in its glabrous leaves. The latter closely resembles R. phaeochrysum. While material from the north of the range of R. przewalskii is generally distinct, it apparently merges with the latter species in C Sichuan. When there is any doubt R. przewalskii may be distinguished by its bright yellow petioles.
Taxonomic note (R. dabanshanense Fang & Wang)
Lower surface of leaves covered with a whitish to pale brown, thin indumentum at maturity.