An evergreen shrub of close, dwarf habit as seen in cultivation but said by Forrest in a field note to be sometimes 6 to 10 ft high; young shoots clothed with a dense brown wool. Leaves leathery, obovate, abruptly contracted at the apex to a small mucro, tapered gradually to the base, 11⁄2 to 31⁄2 in. long, 3⁄4 to 11⁄2 in. wide, dark glossy green above, densely felted with reddish-brown wool beneath; stalk 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 in. long, woolly. Flowers in a terminal cluster of six to ten, on slender, downy stalks up to 11⁄2 in. long opening in mid-May. Calyx red, unequally five-lobed, up to 1⁄3 in. long. Corolla funnel-shaped with five broad, rounded, erect lobes; 11⁄2 to 2 in. long, nearly as much wide, scarlet to deep, rich, almost blood red. Stamens ten, 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 in. long, glabrous or nearly so; anthers brown. Ovary densely woolly; style glabrous. Bot. Mag., t. 9165. (s. Neriiflorum ss. Haematodes)
R. haematodes was discovered by the Abbé Delavay in the Tali range, Yunnan, where it is associated with R. neriiflorum at 12,000 to 13,000 ft. The cultivated plants descend mainly from seed-collections by Forrest in the same area in 1910 (F.6773) and 1917 (F.15521), both from low-growing plants, which may explain why this species is usually seen in gardens as a shrub only a few feet high and more in width. It is certainly one of the best of his introductions so far as this country in general is concerned, for it is very hardy. Its dwarf habit and slow growth make it suitable for the rock garden. It is the type species of a section of the Neriiflorum series distinguished mainly by the thick woolly covering on the young shoots and underneath the leaf. The richly coloured flowers are very effective and as a rule come late enough to escape frost. In the var. calycinum Franch., the coloured calyx is remarkably developed so that the lobes may be as much as 3⁄4 in. long.
R. haematodes received a First Class Certificate when shown by A. M. Williams, Werrington Park, Cornwall, on April 27, 1926.
R. catacosmum Tagg – Allied to R. haematodes, but with stouter shoots, larger obovate leaves up to 41⁄2 in. long, rounded at the apex, a more widely campanulate corolla and a larger, cup-like calyx. The flowers are rosy crimson, deep crimson, or scarlet, in lax trusses of about nine, on pedicels 1 in. long, opening in March or April and often caught by frost. The shoots are woolly, not bristly as in R. chaetomallum, to which it bears some resemblance. It is a shrub up to 9 ft in the wild, found by Forrest in S.E. Tibet in side-valleys on the Salween-Kiuchiang divide at 13,000 to 14,000 ft and was introduced by him in 1921. Although highly praised it is uncommon in gardens and has never received an award.
From the Supplement (Vol. V)
subsp. chaetomallum (Balf.f. & Forr.) Chamberlain R. chaetomallum Balf.f. & Forr.; R. chaetomallum var. glaucescens Tagg & Forr. – See R. chaetomallum, page 627, and in this supplement. It differs from subsp. haematodes in having the young shoots and petioles clad with stout bristles (Rev. 2, p. 390).