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A deciduous shrub a few feet high, the young sucker shoots copiously armed with short, slender prickles; branchlets sparingly armed with somewhat larger prickles. Leaves 2 to 4 in. long, composed of seven to eleven leaflets. Leaflets oval to ovate, 3⁄8 to 1 in. long, abruptly pointed or obtuse, sharply and mostly simply toothed, glaucous, especially beneath, downy on the midrib. Flowers solitary or a few together, 1 to 11⁄2 in. wide, rich rose in the type, sometimes pale pink or white, opening in June; pedicels and receptacle smooth or sometimes glandular. Sepals abruptly narrowed to a slender tail, woolly at the margins and inside. Fruits bright red, top-shaped, 3⁄8 to 1⁄2 in. long, the sepals persistent.
Native of north-western and west-central China; described from plants raised by Veitch from seeds collected by Wilson (W.1280), which first flowered in 1908; re-introduced by Farrer from Kansu in 1915. It is allied to R. sertata, differing in the copiously prickly strong shoots, smaller flowers, and the sepals abruptly narrowed into a long, slender appendage. In the last-named character it resembles R. davidii, which differs in its leaflets with more numerous teeth, usually more numerous flowers in the inflorescence, and flagon-shaped fruits.
The stock of R. elegantula was sold at the winding-up sale of Messrs J. Veitch in 1913, but this species does not seem to have been much cultivated outside Kew. Indeed its very existence was overlooked when the plants from Farrer’s re-introduction were being considered, for there is no doubt that R. farreri and R. elegantula are the same species. Even the following selection does not differ from the type in any significant botanical character, and is included by Rehder in R. elegantula without distinction (Bibliog. Cult. Tr. & Shr. (1949), p. 310).