Shrub or small tree, 2-7.5 m. Leaves 12-25 x 4.8-6.2 cm, oblanceolate, lower surface covered in a dense two-layered indumentum, the upper layer whitish or fawn, composed of scarcely fimbriate broadly cup-shaped hairs, the lower compacted; petioles terete. Flowers 15-20, in a tight truss, usually 7-lobed, white, sometimes flushed rose, with a crimson basal blotch, sometimes also with flecks, funnel-campanulate, nectar pouches lacking, 35-40 mm; stamens usually 14; ovary densely rufous-tomentose. Flowering April. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)
Distribution Myanmar NE China SE Tibet, NW Yunnan
Habitat 3,000-4,000 m
RHS Hardiness Rating H5
Awards AM 1953 (Crown Estate Commissioners, Windsor) to a clone 'Morocco'; flowers white, with a crimson blotch and very few spots.
Conservation status Near threatened (NT)
An evergreen shrub or small tree from 10 to 25 ft high; young shoots pale grey with down. Leaves oblanceolate, 5 to 101⁄2 in. long, 11⁄2 to 31⁄2 in. wide, dark green and glabrous above, grey white and downy beneath; stalk 1 in. or less long, cylindrical, pale yellowish green like the midrib. Flowers borne rather loosely in a truss fifteen to twenty together. Calyx a mere rim; flower-stalks downy, 3⁄4 to 1 in. long. Corolla between funnel- and bell-shaped, up to 21⁄2 in. wide, five- to seven-lobed, white or rose-tinted, with a crimson blotch at the base and sometimes similarly coloured spots on the upper lobes. Stamens double the number of corolla-lobes, scurfy at the base; ovary downy; style glabrous. Bot. Mag., n.s., t. 462. (s. Falconeri)
Native of N.W. Yunnan, where it was found on the Mekong-Salween divide by the Abbé Soulié in 1898, flowering in March; afterwards in the same region by Père Monbeig and by Forrest who introduced it. It occurs up to 13,000 ft altitude, and is hardy in climates like that of the inland parts of Sussex and Hampshire. It is a handsome-leaved species of the Falconeri series, distinct therein by reason of the grey-white colouring of various parts. It has suffered from Lionel de Rothschild’s condemnation of it as ‘a long way the worst rhododendron in the series’, with small white flowers and not worth growing. In fact, some plants raised from Forrest 25622 and 25872 have large, very beautiful flowers.
R. coriaceum received an Award of Merit when shown by the Crown Estate Commissioners, Windsor Great Park, on April 14, 1953 (clone ‘Morocco’).