An evergreen shrub 2 to 4 ft high, young shoots, leaves (on both sides), outside of calyx-lobes, ovary, and flower-stalks all very scaly. Leaves oval, often inclined to oblong, rounded but with a tiny mucro at the apex, 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 in. long, 1⁄6 to 1⁄3 in. wide, dark green above, yellowish grey between the scales beneath; stalk 1⁄12 to 1⁄8 in. long. Flowers opening in April and May in a terminal cluster of three to five, each on a very short stalk. Calyx 1⁄6 in. long, deeply five-lobed, the lobes oblong, deep purple, fringed at the margin. Corolla 7⁄8 in. wide, of a rich plum-purple, the tube very short and clothed inside with white hairs, five-lobed, the lobes ovate-oblong, rounded at the end, spreading, sprinkled more or less with scales outside, mostly up the middle. Stamens normally ten, but sometimes as few as seven, purple, 1⁄2 in. long, tufted with white down near the base; anthers pale brown. Ovary scaly towards the top; style overtopping the stamens, purple, glabrous. (s. Lapponicum)
Native of N.W. Yunnan and S.W. Szechwan at 12,000 to 14,000 ft; discovered by Forrest in 1910 in the Lichiang range and introduced by him in the same year. Its flowers, although small, are of a wonderfully rich purple, this colour extending to the style and the filaments of the stamens. R. russatum, which often bears flowers of a similar colour, differs in having much larger leaves and a downy style. R. rupicola is perfectly hardy.
R. achroanthum Balf. f. & W. W. Sm. R. propinquum Balf. f. & Ward – This differs from R. rupicola in having five or six stamens only, and a more densely scaly ovary, but is probably not specifically distinct from it. It was introduced by Forrest in 1918 from the mountains north-east of Chungtien and is also in cultivation from seeds collected by Kingdon Ward in north-east upper Burma.