An evergreen shrub 3 or 4 ft high; young shoots densely bristly and scaly beneath the bristles. Leaves oval inclined to oblong, 11⁄2 to 2 in. long, 3⁄4 to 1 in. wide, pale green and bristly above, nearly covered with tawny scales beneath, margins bristly; leaf-stalks 1⁄3 to 1⁄2 in. long, bristly and scaly. Flowers two to six in a close terminal cluster. Calyx 1⁄3 in. long, five-lobed, the lobes oblong, scaly outside and densely woolly-hairy on the margin. Corolla bright yellow, between funnel- and bell-shaped, about 11⁄2 in. long, five-lobed, densely scaly outside. Stamens ten, with white hairs at the lower part; anthers pink. Ovary and base of style scaly. Bot. Mag., n.s., t. 623. (s. Maddenii ss. Ciliicalyx)
R. valentinianum was discovered by Forrest in 1917 on the Shweli-Salween divide, Yunnan, near the border with Burma, growing in open scrub at 11,000 ft. In a note accompanying the original description, Sir Isaac Bayley Balfour remarked on the affinity between this species and the Himalayan R. ciliatum, but there are many differences apart from the obvious one of flower-colour, notably that the leaves are smaller in R. valentinianum and densely scaly beneath.
R. valentinianum is a charming species, but, although winter-hardy, it is bud-tender and is really seen to best advantage in a cool greenhouse except in the milder parts. Grown out-of-doors it needs a well-lighted position, otherwise it sets little flower-bud and becomes lanky in habit. It received an Award of Merit in 1936 when shown from Bodnant.
R. fletcherianum Davidian – Fairly closely allied to R. valentinianum, but differing in the leaves being green and sparsely scaly beneath, with shallowly crenate margins, the more widely funnel-shaped corollas and bristly-hairy ovaries. The flowers are paler yellow, and the habit more erect. Bot. Mag., n.s., t. 508. It is allied to R. ciliatum – more closely than is R. valentinianum – but differs in flower-colour, the crenate leaves and narrower calyx-lobes. It was discovered by Dr Rock in 1932, growing on the Sola La in the Yunnan-Tibet borderland, at 13,500 to 14,000 ft, and introduced by him (Rock 22302). It was grown in gardens as Rock's form of R. valentinianum until named and described as a new species in 1961.
R. fletcherianum is hardy, but flowering as it does in March or April the display is often ruined by frost. It needs a sheltered position, but one where it receives abundant light. Award of Merit April 14, 1964, when shown by E. H. M. and P. A. Cox, Glendoick, Perthshire (clone 'Yellow Bunting', with primrose-yellow flowers).