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Dwarf shrub, sometimes prostrate, 0.1-1.2 m; leaf bud scales persistent and conspicuous. Leaves 1.2-4.7 x 0.7-2.3 cm, broadly elliptic to suborbicular, apex obtuse or rounded; lower surface covered with 2-3 tiers of overlapping scales, the upper tier fawn to brown (rarely dark brown), the lowest tier golden, paler than those of the upper tiers. Flowers many, in a dense racemose umbel; calyx lobes (3-)4-7 mm; corolla white to pink, rarely yellowish, tube 6.5-13 mm, densely pilose at throat, lobes (3-)4-8 mm; stamens 5(-7); ovary scaly. Flowering April-May. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)
Distribution Myanmar N China S Tibet, W Yunnan India Arunachal Pradesh
RHS Hardiness Rating H5
Conservation status Least concern (LC)
An evergreen shrub of bushy habit up to 3 or 4 ft high; young shoots thickly covered with scurf-like scales and bristly. Leaves oval to oblong, rounded or tapered, and with a short mucro at the apex, 1⁄2 to 11⁄4 in. long, 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 in. wide, the margins decurved; dark glossy green above, clothed beneath with a dense scurfy coating of scales at first whitish, ultimately pale brown; stalk 1⁄8 to 1⁄4 in. long. Flowers densely clustered in a terminal head of eight or more blossoms which is 11⁄2 to 2 in. wide. Each flower is about 2⁄3 in. long and wide, the corolla white, narrowly tubular at the base, spreading at the mouth into five rounded lobes with crinkled margins, the throat filled with white down. Stamens five, 1⁄4 in. long, enclosed within the corolla-tube, slightly downy towards the base; ovary very scaly; style short, glabrous; calyx deeply five-lobed, scarcely half as long as the corolla, the lobes narrowly ovate, scaly outside, fringed with hairs; flower-stalk 1⁄8 in. long, scaly. (s. Anthopogon)
Native of W. Szechwan, N. W. Yunnan, and bordering parts of Tibet and upper Burma at 9,000 to 15,000 ft; discovered by the French missionary Delavay in 1884 and probably introduced by him. Seeds were later sent by Wilson, Forrest, Kingdon Ward and Rock from various parts of its range. It is a very charming dwarf species, very hardy, and flowers in April. In the form first grown in gardens the flowers were white, but more commonly they are pink or flushed with pink. In Kingdon Ward’s 6914 they are deep pink; this is a robust form, introduced from the Seinghku valley, upper Burma.
[var. crebreflorum] – This variety is not recognised in the Edinburgh revision. But the cultivated plants, probably all from the two Kingdon Ward numbers mentioned on page 626, could be distinguished as the Crebreflorum group.
Leaves 1.2-2.6 x 0.7-1.5cm; corolla tube 6.5-13mm.
Distribution India (Arunachal Pradesh) N Burma, China (S & SE Tibet, Yunnan).
Awards AM 1934 (L. de Rothschild, Exbury); flowers white, tinged yellow. AM 1979 (Mrs K.N. Dryden, Sawbridgeworth) to a clone ‘Winifred Murray’, as R. cephalanthum; flowers usually 8, in loose rounded heads, corolla red, fading white at lip.
R. platyphyllum Franch. ex Balf.f. & W.W.Sm.
Leaves 2.5-4.7 x 1.8-2.3cm; corolla tube 13-14mm.
Distribution NE Burma, China (NW & W Yunnan).
Taxonomic note (R. platyphyllum Franch. ex Balf.f. & W.W.Sm.)
Subsp. platyphyllum, which is larger in all its parts than subsp. cephalanthum, has been recently introduced to cultivation. It is rare in the wild. R. cephalanthum resembles R. primuliflorum but may be distinguished by the persistent leaf bud scales.
R. crebreflorum Hutch. & Ward