An evergreen shrub up to 6 ft high in the wild; young stems glabrous, not glandular. Leaves leathery, obovate, about 3 in. long, 15⁄8 in. wide, rounded and mucronate at the apex, obtuse at the base, glabrous above, clad beneath with a dense cinnamon-coloured indumentum which conceals the lateral veins but not the midrib. Petiole about 3⁄8 in. long. Flowers borne March or early April, up to fifteen together in a compact truss on glandular stalks about 3⁄8 in. long. Calyx cup-shaped, fleshy, about 1⁄4 in. long, with five irregular lobes. Corolla tubular-campanulate, scarlet or crimson, about 11⁄2 in. long. Ovary glandular and tomentose; style glabrous. (s. Neriiflorum ss. Haematodes)
R. coelicum was discovered by Farrer on the Chawchi pass, upper Burma, between the Salween and the upper Irrawaddy (Nmai Hka). He described it as a thin, low little bush, flowering in the snow, and ‘making blots of scarlet, visible for miles.’ It is introduced by Forrest from the Tsarong region of S.E. Tibet, some way to the north of the type-locality, growing at 13,000 to 14,000 ft and making a shrub 4 to 5 ft high (F.21830). It belongs to the same subgroup as R. haematodes, R. chaetomallum, and R. catacosmum, but in those species the inflorescence is lax and few-flowered and the young stems and petioles are tomentose and without glands.
R. coelicum received an Award of Merit when shown by Col. The Lord Digby on April 19,1955 (raised from F. 21830).
R. pocophorum Tagg – Closely allied to R. coelicum, differing in the glandular-bristly young shoots and petioles, and the glandular but not tomentose ovary. The leaves are also somewhat larger – up to 6 in. or slightly more long and 11⁄2 to 21⁄2 in. wide – and it attains about 10 ft in height, though usually less. According to the original description, there are fifteen to twenty flowers in the truss, but cultivated plants, even those raised from the wild seed, have far fewer. Most of the collections by Forrest and Rock are from the divide between the upper Irrawaddy and the Salween in S.E. Tibet, and the former introduced it from there in 1921. Tagg identified as R. pocophorum Kingdon Ward’s no. 8289 from the Delei valley, Assam, but neither his specimen nor the plants raised from the seed under this number agree well with this species.
A plant at Nymans, raised from KW 8289, received an A.M. in 1971, on March 30, under the clonal name ‘Cecil Nice’.