An evergreen shrub up to 10 ft high in the wild; young shoots and leaf-petioles covered with gland-tipped bristles intermixed with white floccose hairs. Leaves oblong-lanceolate to oblong-oblanceolate, tapered or abruptly narrowed to a mucronate tip, rounded or heart-shaped at the base, upper surface medium green, glabrous at maturity, underside pale green, glabrous except for scattered stellate hairs on the midrib and main veins; petiole stout, 1⁄2 to 5⁄8 in. long. Flowers borne in May or June in a compact truss of about ten; pedicels about 1⁄2 in. long, glandular-bristly and hairy. Corolla deep red, tubular-campanulate, about 11⁄2 in. long, fleshy, with five dark nectar-pouches at the base. Stamens ten. Ovary conoid, clad with branched hairs and gland-tipped bristles; style hairy at the base.
R. venator was discovered by Kingdon Ward in the Tsangpo gorge, S.E. Tibet, in November 1924. ‘In swampy places there grew a spreading untidy shrub with more or less ascending branches – one of the “Irroratum” series with blood-red flowers (KW 6285). This plant we saw henceforth almost daily, and it was especially abundant in the swamps round Pemakochung, where it took on almost the appearance of mangrove’ (Riddle of the Tsangpo Gorges, p. 201). He saw only a few precocious trusses but plants flowered in several gardens in 1933 and the species was described in the following year. It was reintroduced from the type-locality by Ludlow, Sherriff, and Elliot in 1946-7.
R. venator is of some value as a hardy red-flowered species, blossoming after the main danger of frost is past, and not taking up much room. But the habit is rather straggly. It is at present placed in the Parishii subseries of the Irroratum series, but its relationships are uncertain. Dr Cowan suggested that it was nearer to R. floccigerum in the Neriiflorum series.
R. venator received an Award of Merit when shown from Bodnant on May 23, 1933 (a form with orange-scarlet flowers).