Dwarf shrub, to 40 cm; young shoots scaly and puberulent. Leaves 1-1.7 x 0.5-1 cm, oblong-elliptic, rounded at base and apex, margin bluntly toothed, ciliate, lower surface with distant golden vesicular scales. Flowers 2-3, in a loose terminal inflorescence; calyx lobes 5-7 mm, reddish, apex rounded; corolla red to purple, open-campanulate, 13-18 mm; ovary scaly, style declinate, glabrous. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)
Distribution Bhutan China SE Tibet
Habitat 3,650-4,500 m
RHS Hardiness Rating H6
Conservation status Least concern (LC)
Taxonomic note This species may be distantly related to R. setosum but is sufficiently distinctive to be placed in its own subsection. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)
A dwarf tufted shrub up to 8 or 9 in. high; branchlets scaly and downy. Leaves aromatic, obovate to elliptic, up to 1⁄2 in. long, half as wide, rounded at the apex, dark olive-green and glossy above, scaly on both sides, the scales on the undersurface widely spaced, dark brown or yellow; margins bristly. Inflorescence a terminal cluster of two to six flowers on pedicels about 1⁄4 in. long. Calyx five-lobed to the base, about 1⁄6 in. deep. Corolla between funnel-shaped and rotate, coloured ‘crushed strawberry’, five-lobed, between 1⁄2 and 3⁄4 in. long, glabrous outside. Stamens ten, exserted. Ovary densely scaly; style longer than the stamens, glabrous.
R. fragariiflorum was discovered by Kingdon Ward in 1924 on the Temo La and Nyima La, Tibet, in the mountains immediately to the north of the Tsangpo bend, at 14,000 to 15,000 ft, growing gregariously with other dwarf rhododendrons; it was subsequently found in the main Himalayan chain, where it extends almost as far west as the Bhutan frontier. It is at present placed in the Saluenense series, but, as Kingdon Ward remarked when describing the species, it is really intermediate between this group and the Lapponicum series. Although later reintroduced by Ludlow and Sherriff it seems to be rare in gardens. The specific epithet refers to the colour of the flowers.
This is now placed in the monotypic section Fragariiflora.