An evergreen shrub of erect habit up to 3 ft high; young shoots very scurfy. Leaves elliptic-lanceolate, tapered about equally to both ends, 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 in. long, 1⁄10 to 3⁄16 in. wide, dull dark green above, pale brown below, very scaly on both sides; stalk 1⁄16 in. long. Flowers solitary, in pairs or threes, opening in April or May. Calyx about 1⁄16 in. long, scaly. Corolla widely funnel-shaped, 1⁄2 in. wide, five-lobed, rosy purple, the lobes more or less scaly up the centre outside. Stamens normally ten, sometimes less, downy towards the base. Ovary scaly; style glabrous, overtopping the stamens. (s. Lapponicum)
Native of S.W. Szechwan and bordering parts of Yunnan; discovered by Forrest and introduced by him from the Chungtien plateau in 1914. It belongs to a group of the Lapponicum series in which the undersides of the leaves have a close covering of brownish or greyish scales dotted with darker, larger, stalked scales. It is a very hardy species, suitable for the rock garden, but not among the best of the series.
A rhododendron scarcely differing from R. telmateium was found by Ludlow and Sherriff in a dry zone of the Tibetan Himalaya.
R. diacritum Balf. f. & W. W. Sm. R. pycnocladum Balf. f. & W. W. Sm. – Very near to R. telmateium, but with the leaves oblong or oblong-elliptic. The type is from the Chungtien plateau.
R. drumonium Balf. f. & Ward – Leaves similar to those of R. diacritum. Style slightly shorter than the stamens. Otherwise very like R. telmateium. The type, collected by Kingdon Ward below the Chungtien plateau, was a dwarf carpet-forming shrub, but Forrest’s 13768 from the same area came from plants 2 to 21⁄2 ft high.