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An evergreen tree said to be as much as 45 ft high; young shoots clothed with brownish down. Leaves varying from narrowly elliptical to oblanceolate and from tapered to slightly heart-shaped at the base, the apex rounded and mucronate, 5 to 12 in. long, 2 to 41⁄2 in. wide; dark green and glabrous above, covered beneath with a dense brown felt; stalk 3⁄4 to 11⁄2 in. long. Flowers opening in April or early May in a truss of twelve to fifteen, on stalks 1 to 11⁄2 in. long. Calyx inconspicuous. Corolla bell-shaped, 13⁄4 to 21⁄2 in. wide, white, creamy white, or rose-tinted, with a dark crimson blotch at the base, seven or eight-lobed. Stamens fourteen or sixteen, unequal in length but all shorter than the corolla, downy at the base; anthers red-brown. Ovary felted; style glabrous. Bot. Mag., t. 8372. (s. Falconeri)
R. fictolacteum is widespread in Yunnan and S.W. Szechwan, occurring in areas drier, or at least much less rainy, than is usual for members of its series; it is also found in S.E. Tibet. It was discovered by the French missionary Delavay in Yunnan, north of Tali; he sent seeds to Paris, whence seedlings were sent to Kew in 1889. It was first flowered in Britain in 1910, by F. D. Godman of South Lodge, Sussex. A truss from this plant was figured in the Botanical Magazine (t. 8372) under the name R. lacteum Franch., with which it had been wrongly identified by Hemsley. Sir Isaac Bayley-Balfour established that it was in fact a species entirely distinct from R. lacteum and named it R. fictolacteum (Gard. Chron., Vol. 59 (1916), p. 168).
R. fictolacteum was reintroduced by Forrest in 1910 from the Sungkwei pass and later from other parts of Yunnan, and is also in cultivation from seeds collected by Dr Rock. It is a very hardy species, occurring in the wild at altitudes mostly between 12,000 and 13,000 ft, and at its best it is very fine, though in recent years it has been overshadowed by its relative R. rex (see below). It received an Award of Merit when shown by Messrs Reuthe in 1923. The same award was given in 1953, on April 14, to a form raised by Lord Digby from Rock 59255. In this plant, named ‘Cherry Tip’, the flowers are white, flushed pink, bright cherry pink in bud. The seeds were collected by Rock in the Lichiang range.
A fine form was found by Forrest in 1922 on the Chienchuan-Mekong divide, with white flowers flushed with pink, in a large truss (F.22020).
This becomes a subspecies of R. rex, q.v. in this supplement.