Shrub or tree, 1.8-9 m. Leaves 9-19 x 2.6-8.2 cm, apex apiculate, lower surface with a thin one-layered compacted fawn to brown indumentum composed of stellate hairs; petioles sometimes winged, glabrous or floccose. Flowers 10-25, in a dense truss; calyx 0.5-1 mm; corolla white flushed rose to pink, with or without purple flecks and/or a basal blotch, broadly campanulate, nectar pouches lacking; ovary densely white-to brown-tomentose, style glabrous. Flowering April-May. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)
Distribution Myanmar NE China NW Yunnan, SW Sichuan
Habitat 3,350-4,250 m
RHS Hardiness Rating H6
Conservation status Least concern (LC)
Taxonomic note A distinctive species on account of the size of the leaves. In the wild it usually occurs in the shelter of trees; in cultivation it is prone to leaf snap if planted in an exposed position. It is a difficult subject in cultivation. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)
An evergreen shrub or small tree up to 20 ft high; young shoots stout, nearly 1⁄2 in. in diameter, soon glabrous. Leaves elliptic-oblong, inclined to oblanceolate, rather abruptly narrowed to a short point, rounded or slightly heart-shaped at the base, 6 in. to over 1 ft long, 11⁄2 to 31⁄2 in. wide, dark green and glabrous above, covered beneath with a thin, close, red-brown, felt-like down; stalk up to 11⁄4 in. long, slightly flattened or winged. Flowers in a racemose truss of twenty or more and 5 or 6 in. across, each flower on a downy stalk 1 to 11⁄2 in. long. Calyx merely a wavy rim. Corolla openly bell-shaped, 2 in. long and wide, white to deep rich rose with a few crimson markings or a basal blotch, five-lobed. Stamens ten, downy at the base, about 1 in. long; ovary cylindrical, covered with brown down; style glabrous, 1 in. long. Bot. Mag., n.s., t. 125 (s. Lacteum)
R. beesianum was discovered by Forrest in 1906 on the eastern flank of the Lichiang range in N.W. Yunnan and was subsequently found to have a wide range, from S.W. Szechwan to the eastern end of the Himalaya. It occurs at 11,000 to 14,000 ft and often forms miniature forests above the coniferous belt. Forrest sent seed of this species many times from 1906 onwards, and so later did Kingdon Ward and Rock. It is one of the large-leaved species of the Lacteum series and, like R. lacteum itself, is difficult to cultivate and uncommon, though quite hardy. It needs shelter from wind and some shade. There are fine specimens in the Edinburgh collection, and at Blackhills, Morayshire.