Shrub to 1 m, terrestrial or epiphytic, young stems densely covered with brown scales on prominent stalks, later scabrid by the persistent stalks alone. Leaves 1.2–2.2 × 0.4–1 cm, spathulate to elliptic, the apex obtuse, rounded or emarginate with a prominent yellowish apical gland, the margin flat or very slightly reflexed the base narrowly to broadly wedge-shaped; the upper surface with well spaced pale brown scales, midrib strongly impressed above, lateral veins obscure or traces of 1–3 pairs; lower surface with the midrib slightly raised, the laterals obscure, scales disk-shaped to lobed, dark brown, distinct and well spaced. Flowers solitary, rarely up to 4 together, more or less horizontal; calyx of 5 rather long scaly lobes; corolla white with a tinge of pink, sub-urceolate or shortly cylindrical with the long lobes reflexing back against the tube, 0.7–8 × 0.9–1.1 cm, scaly outside; stamens 10, protruding in a rather irregular mass from the mouth; ovary densely silvery scaly, style glabrous, pink. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)
Distribution Bhutan Myanmar Upper China Yunnan, Tibet India Sikkim and Assam Sirhoi Nepal
Habitat 1,700–4,200 m
RHS Hardiness Rating H2
Conservation status Least concern (LC)
Taxonomic note A delicate species disliking the high temperatures of summer which makes it a temperamental plant to keep on a long term basis. R. vaccinoides includes R. sinovaccinioides Balf.f. which only differs in having larger leaves and a range of intermediates occur. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)
A small, compact, evergreen shrub often found wild on trees growing as an epiphyte, or on rocks and only a few inches high. Shoots thickly set with leaves and rough with wart-like glands the first year, densely furnished with stalked glands the second. Leaves obovate to oblanceolate, with a notched, mucronate apex, tapering to a stout winged stalk, 1⁄2 to 11⁄4 in. long, 1⁄4 to 1⁄3 in. wide, glabrous except for a few scattered scales. Flowers solitary or in pairs, terminal. Corolla pink or white tinged with pink, tubular at the base, 1⁄5 in. long, spreading at the mouth into five rounded lobes each 1⁄5 in. long, with scattered glandular scales outside. Stamens ten, hairy on the middle part only. Ovary scaly, tapered at the apex into a short stout style. Seeds with a long tail at each end. Bot. Mag., t. 9407b.
Native of the eastern Himalaya, Assam, upper Burma, N.W. Yunnan and bordering parts of S.E. Tibet; discovered by J. D. Hooker in Sikkim and introduced by him in 1850, but the seedlings soon died off. It is of no value for gardens, the flowers being even smaller than they are in R. micranthum, but is of interest as a member of the section Vireya, characterised by the long-tailed seeds, which has its main distribution in Malaysia, New Guinea, and the Philippines. In Sleumer’s classification it belongs to the subsection Pseudovireya, of which it is the type-species. The Vaccinioides series, as defined in The Species of Rhododendron, comprises those members of this subsection which occur in the Sino-Himalayan region, Formosa and the Philippines (and includes one species – R. vidalii – which is considered by Sleumer to belong to the typical subsection of Vireya).
It was mentioned that the section Vireya subsect. Pseudovireya (the former Vaccinoides series) has a representative in Formosa (Taiwan). This is R. kawakamii Hayata, for which see Davidian, The Rhododendron Species, Vol. 1, p. 391. It was introduced by the American collector John Patrick in 1969. Also in this group is R. santapaui Sastry & Kataki, discovered by Peter Cox and his companions in the Apa Tani valley of the Assam Himalaya (Arunachal Pradesh) in 1965 (Davidian, op. cit., p. 391; Cox, Dwarf Rhododendrons, plate 36). Both are tender and the latter also difficult to cultivate.