An evergreen tree up to 45 ft high. Leaves obovate to oblanceolate, abruptly pointed, wedge-shaped at the base, 8 to 12 in. long, 2 to 31⁄2 in. wide, glabrous except for some floss on the midrib beneath when young. Flowers up to thirty in trusses 6 to 8 in. across. Flower-stalk 11⁄2 to 3 in. long, glabrous. Calyx very small. Corolla five- to eight-lobed, 21⁄2 in. wide, not so deep, bell-shaped, white or rosy with a large, conspicuous, dark crimson blotch at the base. Stamens sixteen to twenty-two, of very unequal length but shorter than the corolla, slightly downy at the base; ovary and style glabrous; stigma very large, 1⁄4 in. wide, yellow; seed-pod 1 in. long, 1⁄3 in. wide. Flowers in April. Bot. Mag., t. 9173. (s. Fortunei ss. Calophytum)
Native of W. Szechwan; discovered by the Abbé David near Mupin in 1869. Wilson introduced it in 1904 when collecting for Messrs Veitch and again in larger quantity four years later, during his first expedition for the Arnold Arboretum. According to him it is common in the forests of W. Szechwan, and grows to a larger size than any other rhododendron found in that region.
It is one of the noblest of Chinese rhododendrons and is perfectly hardy, needing only shelter from wind and some shade. In its very large, almost glabrous leaves it resembles R. sutchuenense but they are of a richer green, the flowers are smaller, on longer, red stalks. The knob-like stigma is very conspicuous.
A form with white flowers flushed with pink received an Award of Merit on March 9, 1920, when shown by Messrs Reuthe, who had flowered the species for the first time in 1916. The beautiful pale pink form grown at South Lodge, Lower Beeding, Sussex, was awarded a First Class Certificate when Dame Alice Godman showed it on April 4, 1933.