An evergreen shrub of very compact, slow growth, forming a close hemispherical bush; young shoots bright yellow, glabrous, stiff, and stout. Leaves oval or obovate, 2 to 4 in. long, 1 to 11⁄2 in. wide, tapered or rounded at the base, pointed; dark green and glabrous above, more or less scurfy, and with netted veins beneath; stalk yellow. Flowers borne in April or May in compact trusses about 3 in. across; stalks up to 1 in. long, glabrous. Calyx inconspicuous. Corolla white or pink, spotted with rose-purple or unspotted, five-lobed, between funnel-shaped and bell-shaped, about 11⁄4 in. across. Stamens ten, glabrous or downy near the base. Ovary and style glabrous and without glands. (s. Lacteum)
Native of W. China; first collected in Kansu by the Russian traveller Przewal-sky, in 1880; introduced to cultivation by way of St Petersburg. Wilson, who found it further south in 1904, observes that it reaches higher altitudes in W. China than any other broad-leaved rhododendron. He found it up to 14,500 ft. Its yellow buds, young shoots, and leaf-stalks combined with its dense close habit make cultivated plants very distinct, but it appears to be very shy-flowering. Some plants have the young shoots balsamic scented.