An evergreen shrub 11⁄2 to 4 ft high; young shoots scaly and conspicuously bristly. Leaves oblong to oval, with a distinct mucro at the abruptly tapered or rounded apex and a bristly scaly stalk 1⁄12 in. long, 3⁄4 to 1 in. long, 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 in. wide, dark glossy green with minute scales above, more tawny, paler and scaly beneath. Flowers produced in April and May in pairs or threes from the end of the shoot; pedicels 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 in. long, bristly and scaly. Calyx 1⁄3 in. wide, with five ovate, conspicuously fringed lobes. Corolla rosy-purple or purplish crimson with darker spots, widely open, 11⁄2 to 13⁄4 in wide, with five broad, rounded, overlapping lobes, very scaly and softly downy outside; downy in the throat. Stamens ten, purplish, with a tuft of down at the base. Ovary densely scaly; style glabrous. Bot. Mag., t. 9095. (s. Saluenense)
R. saluenense was discovered by the Abbé Soulié in 1894 on the Salween-Mekong divide, near the French Mission station at Tseku, and was later found in other parts of N.W. Yunnan and bordering areas of S.E. Tibet; introduced by Forrest in 1914. It is the tallest-growing and largest-leaved of the series to which it gives its name, and useful to provide height in a planting of dwarf species. Some forms are low-growing and scarcely to be distinguished from R. chameunum. It is perfectly hardy. It received an Award of Merit when shown from Exbury by Lionel de Rothschild on April 17, 1945.
R. chameunum Balf. f. & Forr. R. cosmetum Balf. f. & Forr.; R. cbaridotes Balf. f. & Farrer – As Davidian has pointed out in his revision of the Saluenense series, this species really differs from R. saluenense only in its smaller leaves up to 7⁄8 in. long, sparsely scaly above, and its dwarfer habit, and is linked to it by intermediates.
R. prostratum W. W. Sm. – When Sir William Wright Smith described this species he remarked it was very near indeed to R. saluenense – so near that he hesitated to separate it by anything more than a varietal name. It differs in the smaller leaves, less than 1 in. long, and in the prostrate or hummocked habit. It occurs at high altitudes in S.W. Szechwan and N.W. Yunnan; the type was collected on the Litiping near the upper limit of vegetation at 15,000 to 16,000 ft. It is suitable for the rock garden and quite hardy, though inferior to R. radicans and R. keleticum. It is figured in Bot. Mag., t. 8747.
From the Supplement (Vol. V)
subsp. chameunum (Balf.f. & Forr.) Cullen – See R. chameunum, mentioned under R. saluenense on page 760. According to Dr Cullen, it differs from the typical subspecies only in being prostrate or decumbent, and in having leaves glossy and without scales above, and without bristles at the edge of the blade. It is much commoner in the wild than subsp. saluenense. In this subspecies, he includes R. prostratum, plants so named being only high altitude forms of it (Rev. 1, pp. 117-18).