Sprawling shrub, 0.6–1.5 m. Leaves 4–8 × 2.5–4 cm, ovate-lanceolate, apex apiculate to shortly acuminate, lower surface with a sparse to dense one-layered reddish brown indumentum composed of long-rayed hairs, also with a few glands; petioles tomentose and sparsely glandular. Flowers 8–15, in a dense truss; calyx c.0.5 mm; corolla open-campanulate, yellow or white to pink, with purple flecks, open-campanulate, nectar pouches lacking, 25–40 mm; ovary densely reddish hairy, glands lacking, style glabrous. Flowering April-May. Royal Horticultural Society (1997).
Distribution China C Sichuan
Habitat 2,300–3,800 m
RHS Hardiness Rating H5
Conservation status Vulnerable (VU)
A sturdy evergreen shrub 2 to 5 ft high; young shoots thick, stiff, greyish white at first. Leaves narrowly oval or ovate, pointed, mostly rounded at the base, 2 to 3 in. long, 1 to 11⁄2 in. wide, of hard leathery texture, ultimately glabrous and dark green above, clothed beneath with a close, rusty-brown down which becomes very dark on the two-year-old leaves; stalk 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 in. long. Flowers produced in March and April in a terminal truss of six to ten. Corolla bell-shaped, 11⁄4 to 2 in. wide, creamy white or lemon-yellow, sometimes shaded with rose, or wholly rose-coloured, always spotted with crimson; five-lobed, the lobes overlapping. Calyx very small; flower-stalk 1⁄2 to 1 in. long, both white with down. Stamens ten, about 1⁄2 in. long, downy at the base; anthers dark brown; ovary clothed with white down; style as long as the corolla, glabrous, pale yellow. Bot. Mag., t. 9190. (s. Taliense ss. Wasonii)
Native of W. Szechwan, China; discovered and introduced in 1904 by Wilson, who observed that it is ‘a common-low-growing species partial to rocks in forests’. It is a hardy, slow-growing species, with handsome foliage, with flowers, in the best form, of a clear, pale yellow, blotched at the base.
R. rhododactylum Balf. f.
Flowers pale yellow, 35–40mm.
Flowers white to pink, 25–35mm.
Awards AM 1974 (Crown Estate Commissioners, Windsor) as var. rhododactylum.
The application of the varietal names within this species is problematical as it is not clear whether Hemsley & Wilson intended the name ‘wasonii’ to apply to the yellow- or white to pink-flowered forms. Var. wenchuanense is at one extreme of the variation exhibited by this species while the yellow-flowered forms are at the other. Intermediates, with the white to pink flowers of the former but the flower size of the latter, have been referred to ‘R. rhododactylum’ hort., the basionym of var. ‘rhododactylum’ (hort.) Davidian, a name that is probably invalid. In any case var. rhododactylum may be no more than a larger-flowered form of var. zoenchuanense.