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Shrub, 1.5-3 m; young shoots scaly. Leaves 2.5-8 x 1-2.6 cm, narrowly elliptic, apex acuminate or acute, upper surface usually with midrib puberulent, lower surface silvery, covered with touching polymorphic scales that are small or large and milky to golden. Flowers 3-8, in a terminal inflorescence; calyx minute to (rarely) 5 mm, rarely ciliate; corolla white to pale purple, with greenish flecks, zygomorphic, widely funnel-shaped, 20-35 mm, outer surface usually glabrous, rarely scaly on tube; stamens 10; ovary scaly, impressed below the decimate style that is usually glabrous, rarely puberulous at base. Flowering April-May. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)
Distribution China W Sichuan
Habitat 2,300-2,800 m
RHS Hardiness Rating H5
Conservation status Data deficient (DD)
Taxonomic note This species differs from the closely allied R. continuum in its paler corolla and narrower leaves, with characteristic scales. Royal Horticultural Society (1997)
An evergreen shrub 6 to 10 ft high; young shoots freely set with pale scales, prominently warted the following year. Leaves narrowly oblong or oblanceolate, slenderly pointed, much tapered at each end, 2 to 31⁄2 in. long, 1⁄2 to 7⁄8 in. wide, dark green and at first scaly above, becoming glabrous; glaucous beneath, freely sprinkled with small yellowish scales, amongst which are scattered large brown ones; margins slightly decurved; stalk 1⁄4 to 1⁄3 in. long, scaly. Flowers produced during late April and May in terminal clusters of four to eight, occasionally augmented by others from the uppermost leaf-axils; common flower-stalk 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 in. long; individual stalks 1⁄3 to 5⁄8 in. long, scaly. Calyx very scaly, small, five-lobed. Corolla 1 to 11⁄2 in. long, 11⁄2 to 2 in. wide, the base funnel-shaped, the five lobes ovate-oblong, rounded at the end; pale lavender to almost white spotted with pale green, not scaly outside. Stamens ten, of varying length, downy towards but not at the base; anthers pale brown; style glabrous, slightly overtopping the stamens. Bot. Mag., t. 8993. (s. Triflorum ss. Yunnanense)
Native of W. Szechwan; discovered by Wilson on the Wa-shan in 1908 and introduced by him. It is distinguished from its allies by the undersides of the leaves, which show a mixture of closely arranged yellow and brown scales on a glaucous ground. In R. zaleucum the leaves are also glaucous beneath – more intensely so than in R. searsiae – but the scales are more widely spaced, mostly twice to four times their own diameter apart, usually less than their own diameter apart in R. searsiae. A pretty and quite hardy species.