Shrub, 0.8–4 m. Leaves emitting a musky odour, broadly ovate-lanceolate, 5–11 × 2–4 cm, oblong-ovate to broadly lanceolate, apex acute; lower surface covered with a dense two-layered indumentum, the upper layer fulvous, lanate to tomentose, composed of ramiform hairs, the lower compacted; petioles glabrescent. Flowers 10–20, in a dense truss; calyx 0.5–2 mm; corolla white or (rarely) pale yellow, sometimes flushed with pink, with crimson flecks, funnel-campanulate, nectar pouches lacking, 30–35 mm; ovary and style glabrous. Flowering April-May. Royal Horticultural Society (1997).
Distribution China W Yunnan
Habitat 3,050–4,000 m
RHS Hardiness Rating H6
Conservation status Vulnerable (VU)
Taxonomic note Some cultivated plants have a leaf indumentum that is speckled and very shortly tomentose; in the wild the most common form has a more densely lanate indumentum. This species is allied to R. alutaceum, from which it may be distinguished by its glabrous ovary, and to R. sphaeroblastum. It apparently has a very restricted distribution, occurring only around Dali in W Yunnan. Royal Horticultural Society (1997).
An evergreen shrub up to 10 ft high in the wild, sometimes taller, with stout shoots, tomentose when young. Leaves up to 4 in. long, 3⁄4 to 11⁄2 in. wide, oblong-ovate to lanceolate, pointed at the apex, roundish to slightly cordate at the base, dark green above and glabrous when mature, underside coated with a dense, tawny felt; petiole about 1⁄2 in. or slightly more long, felted. Flowers in a compact terminal cluster of up to fifteen, opening in April or May; pedicels up to 7⁄8 in. long, densely tomentose. Calyx about 1⁄10 in. long. Corolla funnel-campanulate, about 11⁄2 in. long, creamy yellow or creamy white, often flushed with rose and marked with crimson spots, five-lobed. Stamens ten, hairy in the lower third. Ovary and style glabrous. (s. and ss. Taliense)
R. taliense was discovered by the French missionary Delavay in the Tali range, Yunnan, and described in 1886, and was introduced by Forrest from the same area in 1910, possibly earlier. A rhododendron found by Wilson in W. Szechwan, of which seed was sent in 1908, is probably R. taliense. It is a rare species in gardens and of little ornament, but as the type of the Taliense series it deserves mention. From other members of the Taliense subseries it is distinguished by the densely felted leaf-stalks and flower-stalks.