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An evergreen shrub up to 11⁄2 ft high, occasionally taller, of dense, fastigiate habit; branchlets scaly. Leaves oblong-elliptic, 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 in. long, about 3⁄16 in. wide, covered above with lustrous scales spaced about their own diameter apart, scales on the undersides rather more widely spaced than above. Flowers purple-violet or rosy purple, usually three in each truss, about 1 in. wide, very shortly stalked, borne in April or May. Calyx unequally five-lobed, about 1⁄10 in. or slightly less deep, usually with a few straggly hairs on the margin, sparsely scaly. Corolla rotate, glabrous and not scaly outside. Stamens ten, haiiy at the base. Ovary scaly; style glabrous, shorter than the shortest stamen. (s. Lapponicum)
R. lysolepis was described in 1930 from plants growing at Kew, of unstated origin, but is matched by Kingdon Ward’s 4456, found by him in the Muli region of S.W. Szechwan, forming ‘heath-like brooms’ on slate rocks below limestone cliffs, at 11,000 ft. He sent home seeds in 1921, from which the Kew plants were presumably raised. In its best-coloured forms it is quite pretty, but some plants raised from the original seeds produced flowers of an unpleasant shade of bluish magenta.
According to the Philipsons, in their revision of the Lapponicum group (1975), R. lysolepis is a natural hybrid, but it is difficult to accept their conclusion that one parent is R. flavidum. It should have been remarked above that the description is based on a cultivated plant that has distinctly broader leaves than in the type, but in other respects agrees very well with it.