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Large shrub or small tree; bark smooth, peeling; young shoots with a mealy tomentum, also stalked-glandular. Leaves c.7.5 x 4 cm, broadly obovate, base rounded, upper surface glabrous, lower surface with a dense fulvous tomentum composed of fasciculate hairs; petioles glabrous when mature. Flowers 4-5, in a lax truss; calyx 3-5 mm; corolla deep carmine, with darker nectar pouches, campanulate, 35-40 mm; ovary glabrous. Flowering March-April. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)
Distribution China S Tibet
Habitat c.4,000 m
RHS Hardiness Rating H5
Awards AM 1966 (Crown Estate Commissioners, Windsor) from L. & S. 2751; flowers Cardinal Red at tip, darker below
Conservation status Vulnerable (VU)
Taxonomic note This species has been traditionally placed in Subsect. Fulgensia on account of its dense leaf indumentum. However, it resembles R. thomsonii in its flower characters and is therefore better placed in Subsect. Thomsonia. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)
An evergreen shrub or small tree up to 20 ft high in the wild; young stems green, with scattered short, black bristles. Leaves oblong or oblong-ovate, obtuse at the apex, slightly cordate at the base, 2 to 3 in. long, 1 to 11⁄2 in. wide, deep dull green above, lateral veins slighdy impressed, lower surface, except the midrib, covered with a thick brown indumentum made up of long-rayed hairs with ribbon-like arms; petioles bristly like the young branchlets. Flowers in a racemose cluster of three or four on pedicels about 1⁄2 in. long. Calyx crimson, cup-shaped, shallow, with rounded usually rather irregular lobes. Corolla tubular-campanulate, fleshy, deep crimson, up to 17⁄8 in. long, 5⁄8 to 7⁄8 in. wide at the mouth, with five dark nectar-pouches at the base. Stamens ten, with glabrous filaments. Ovary oblong, glabrous; style exserted, glabrous. Bot. Mag., n.s., t. 337.
R. sherriffii was discovered by Ludlow and Sherriff in 1936 in the Tibetan Himalaya near Lung, in the valley of the Chayul Chu, one of the feeders of the Subansiri, growing at 11,000 to 12,500 ft, and was introduced by them in the same year (L. & S. 2751). In describing this species Dr Cowan remarked ‘This is a plant noteworthy not only for beauty of flower but also for unusual botanical characteristics. So distinctive is it that it does not fit well into any recognised series and should perhaps be placed alone in a new series… . If no thick indumentum were present on the leaf, the shape would suggest that Rh. sherriffii might well be placed in the Thomsonii series.’ It is provisionally placed in the Campanulatum series, near R. fulgens.
The truss figured in the Botanical Magazine is from a plant in the Windsor collection, raised originally at Tower Court from L. & S. 2751. The species received an Award of Merit when shown by the Crown Estate Commissioners on March 8, 1966. As this date indicates, it is an early-flowering species.
Now placed in subsect. Fulgensia, though in some respects it resembles R. thomsonii subsp. lopsangianum (Rev. 2, p. 416).