Deciduous shrub, to 2.5 m; young twigs covered with gland-tipped hairs, later glabrescent. Leaves alternate, becoming more closely spaced in pseudowhorls towards apex of stem, 2.1–13.5 × 0.9–6.3 cm, obovate to (rarely) elliptic, lower surface glabrous or covered with eglandular or gland-tipped hairs, midrib covered with straight to crisped unicellular hairs. Flowers fragrant, appearing before or with the leaves, 2–5, in an umbellate raceme; calyx 1–3.5 mm; corolla pink to reddish purple, broadly rotate to funnelform, the short tube gradually expanding into the longer limb, 18–32 mm. Capsule covered with gland-tipped multicellular hairs, occasionally with a few unicellular hairs at apex. Flowering April-May Royal Horticultural Society (1997)
Distribution Japan Hokkaido, Honshu
Habitat 800–2,300 m
RHS Hardiness Rating H6
Awards AM 1943 (Lord Aberconway, Bodnant); flowers Phlox Pink. FCC 1962 (Lord Aberconway and National Trust, Bodnant) to a clone 'Michael McLaren'; flowers Solferino Purple, spotted yellowish green. AGM 1993
Conservation status Least concern (LC)
Taxonomic note A distinctive species not closely related to any other. It is somewhat intermediate between the remaining members of Sect. Sciadorhodion and Sect. Rhodora. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)
A deciduous azalea described as of thin, loose habit and 3 to 5 ft high in the wild, but taller in cultivation; young shoots furnished with partly sticky hairs at first. Leaves often arranged in clusters of five at the end of the twig, dark green, obovate to oblanceolate, tapered to the base, finely bristle-toothed on the margin, 2 to 4 in. long, about half as much wide, being broadest above the middle, upper surface thinly set with appressed hairs, undersurface grey-downy, especially about the midrib and chief veins; stalk short, hairy. Flowers opening in late April or early May in clusters of three to five. Calyx very small and like the flower-stalk (which is 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 in. long) clothed with curled glandular hairs. Corolla 11⁄2 to 2 in. wide, bright purplish rose, spotted with green on the upper lobes; lobes five, roundish obovate; tube downy at the base. Stamens ten, of unequal length, the longest equalling the corolla, mostly hairy at the base. Ovary covered with pale, glandular, erect hairs; style glabrous, curved, longer than the stamens. Bot. Mag., t. 9207. (s. Azalea ss. Canadense)
Native of central and northern Japan; described from specimens collected in 1860–2 by Dr Albrecht of the Russian Consulate at Hakodate. For a long time it remained unknown to cultivation, although seeds under the name were several times obtained for Kew, which invariably proved to be R. reticulatum. It was not introduced to this country until 1914, when the Arnold Arboretum distributed seeds collected by E. H. Wilson during his visit to Japan, but it remained scarce and much sought after for another quarter-century. Writing in 1934, Lionel de Rothschild said he had seen no plant over 3 ft high and called it ‘rare and fastidious’ (Rhod. Ass. Handb. 1934, p. 94). The material figured in the Botanical Magazine came from a plant presented to Kew in 1925 by George Johnstone of Trewithen, Cornwall, who had raised it from the Wilson seeds.
R. albrechtii is one of the most beautiful of the azaleas. The colour of its flowers is always strikingly vivid, but varies from a fairly pure intense pink to a less pleasant magenta-pink. Unlike most deciduous azaleas, it seems to prefer woodland conditions and a moist, leafy soil. Righdy placed, it grows vigorously to 6 ft or even taller, and flowers unfailingly. It received an Award of Merit on April 13, 1943, when shown from Bodnant. The clone ‘Michael McLaren’ was awarded a First Class Certificate when shown from the same garden on May 1, 1962. In this the flowers are coloured Solferino Purple.