Shrub, 0.5-3 m. Leaves coriaceous, leathery, 6-12 x 1.8-5 cm, elliptic to obovate, apex rounded, apiculate, lower surface covered with a dense thick, coffee-brown indumentum composed of dendroid more or less crisped hairs. Flowers 5-10, in a lax truss, creamy yellow, with crimson flecks, campanulate, without nectar pouches, 32-50 mm; ovary densely tomentose, style glabrous. Flowering April-May.
A difficult species to cultivate, apparently liking relatively dry sites. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)
Distribution Bhutan W China S Tibet India Sikkim
Habitat 3,000-4,500 m
RHS Hardiness Rating H6
Conservation status Data deficient (DD)
Taxonomic note It is closely allied to R. flinckii but it is distinguished by the darker and thicker leaf indumentum. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)
An evergreen shrub rarely more than 6 or 7 ft high in cultivation, but said to be sometimes a small tree in the wild; young shoots, undersurface of leaves, and flower-stalks thickly covered with a pale brown felt. Leaves obovate to narrowly oval, rounded at the end, 21⁄2 to 5 in. long, 1 to 21⁄4 in. wide, upper surface at first covered with whitish wool which ultimately falls away except at the base of the midrib, leaving it dark green; stalk 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 in. long. Flowers in a terminal cluster of usually six or seven but sometimes ten, opening in April, on stalks 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 in. long. Calyx very small. Corolla 2 to 21⁄2 in. wide, bell-shaped, five-lobed, pale yellow dotted with red, the lobes rounded, 3⁄4 in. wide. Stamens ten, downy at the base; anthers dark brown. Ovary woolly; style glabrous. (s. Campanulatum)
Native of the Himalaya from E. Nepal eastward; discovered by J. D. Hooker late in 1848 in E. Nepal, at 10,000 to 12,000 ft, and introduced by him. Lionel de Rothschild wrote of this species: ‘R. lanatum … is the most difficult member of this series to cultivate in our climate. It has pretty yellow flowers, while its leaves have an attractive tawny, woolly tomentum underneath. It is hardy in most gardens, but cannot stand drought and, above all, requires more leaf soil than most rhododendrons, and unless it is given plenty of suitable woodland soil round the roots and beech haulm and oak leaves dug in and a good mulching of bracken or leaf soil on the top, is very ill-tempered and often looks a stubborn and seedy plant’ (Year Book Rhod. Ass. 1934, p. 109).
† R. lanatoides Chamberlain – A new species, described in 1982, the type of which is Ludlow, Sherriff and Elliot 13746, collected in south-east Tibet, but introduced earlier by Kingdon Ward (KW 5871) and perhaps in cultivation as R. roxieanum aff.