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A densely branched shrub 5 to 10 ft high and up to 10 ft wide, stems glaucous when young; branches slender, red-brown, armed with straight prickles 1⁄4 to 3⁄8 in. long, mostly occurring in pairs. Leaves 3⁄4 to 2 in. long, glabrous, composed of usually nine leaflets, which are oblong, obovate or nearly round, 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 in. long, greyish above, toothed except towards the base. Flowers 1 to 11⁄2 in. across, bright purplish rose, produced singly on short lateral twigs in May. Pedicels 3⁄8 to 1⁄2 in. long, smooth and glabrous. Sepals lanceolate, 1⁄2 in. long, entire, glabrous outside. Fruits roundish, bright orange-red; sepals deciduous, together with the top of the hypanthium. Bot. Mag., t. 8186.
Native of N.W. China, fairly common, according to Wilson, in the more arid river valleys of N.W. Szechwan. He discovered and introduced it when collecting for Messrs Veitch. He re-introduced it in 1910 and on both occasions the seed came from near Sungpan Ting in the Min valley. R. willmottiae was at first considered to be near to R. webbiana or even to R. xanthina. But it was pointed out by Rehder in 1928 that in the fruiting stage the top of the receptacle is shed together with sepals – a character considered to be of taxonomic importance, and one that places R. willmottiae in the same group as the American R. gymnocarpa, to which it bears a quite strong resemblance in other characters also.
R. willmottiae is a charming rose with elegant foliage, attaining a height of about 6 ft in gardens and as much in width. The flowers are of an unusual shade of lilac pink, with creamy stamens. A selection is ‘Wisley’, with deeper coloured flowers than the normal form.