Tree, 3.5–16 m. Leaves 9.5–17 × 3–5.5 cm, elliptic to oblanceolate, apex acute, upper surface reticulate, lower surface with a white, thin, compacted indumentum embedded in a surface film. Flowers 4–10, in a lax truss, purplish to violet, with darker nectar pouches, campanulate, 40–50 mm; ovary covered with a grey felted tomentum, style glabrous. Flowering February-April. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)
Distribution China W Sichuan, Guizhou
Habitat c.2,000 m
RHS Hardiness Rating H5
Awards AM 1931 (Lady Aberconway and Hon. H.D. McLaren, Bodnant); flowers light magenta, with darker nectaries.
Conservation status Vulnerable (VU)
Taxonomic note This is the only species in Subsect. Argyrophylla that has nectar pouches. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)
An evergreen shrub up to 25 ft high; branchlets furnished with a loose white scurf when quite young. Leaves narrowly oval or broadly oblanceolate, 3 to 6 in. long, 1 to 2 in. wide, tapered at both ends, usually more abruptly towards the apex; glabrous and green above, covered beneath with a very close scurf, at first white, turning grey; midrib yellow below. Flowers borne in February or March in trusses of five to ten; pedicels about 3⁄8 in. long, covered with a thin, whitish wool. Calyx 1⁄8 in. or slightly more long, with triangular or oblong lobes. Corolla deep to pale magenta-purple with darker nectar-pouches at the base, about 2 in. long, widely bell-shaped, five- or sometimes seven-lobed. Stamens ten, glabrous, included in the corolla, filaments purple. Ovary covered with pale greyish wool; style glabrous. Capsule very large, 11⁄4 in. long, 3⁄8 in. wide. (s. Arboreum ss. Argyrophyllum).
R. ririei was discovered by Wilson on Mt Omei, W. Szechwan, where it occurs at 4,000 to 6,000 ft in open places or woodland, and was introduced by him for Messrs Veitch in 1904. It bears some resemblance to R. niveum, but that species has many more flowers in a tighter truss. It is rare in gardens and flowers too early to be suitable for general planting, but is quite hardy and has reached a height of 20 ft at Wakehurst Place, Sussex. It received an Award of Merit on February 24, 1931, when shown from Bodnant.