A low, deciduous shrub with glabrous shoots and leaves, the latter oblanceolate or narrowly oblong, pointed, 11⁄2 to 21⁄2 in. long, 3⁄8 to 5⁄8 in. wide, glabrous. Flowers only slightly scented, usually five to ten in a terminal cluster; white, 1⁄2 in. in diameter, downy outside; perianth segments reflexed; ovary glabrous; fruit red.
Native of the Altai Mountains; discovered about 1780. It is closely allied to D. caucasica, but is considered to differ in having a looser, less silky down on the corolla-tube. As represented in cultivation, D. altaica has larger, more pointed leaves, fewer flowers on an average in the cluster, and does not produce a crowd of short flowering twigs from the previous year’s shoot, as does D. caucasica. The two, however, are probably geographical forms of the one species, to which D. sophia (q.v.) also belongs. Another close ally is:
D. longilobata (Lecomte) Turrill D. altaica var. longilobata Lecomte – A southern relative of D. altaica, differing in its evergreen leaves, which, especially when young, bear a tuft of hairs near the apex. The perianth lobes are lanceolate and acute (ovate-lanceolate and obtuse in D. altaica). The plant at Kew figured in Bot. Mag., n.s., t. 344, is of unknown origin, but the species had been introduced by Ludlow, Sherriff and Elliot from S.E. Tibet in 1947 under their No. 15803 and was in cultivation in 1928, probably from seeds collected by Forrest in Yunnan. The species is hardy in the south of England but of little worth as a decorative plant.