The tree bark is rough, dark grey and peels vertically. The branches are strong and twisted. The leaves are thick, dark green, terminally crowded, and spirally arranged at nearly 90 degrees, about 7-14 cm long and 3-8 cm broad, elliptic in shape with a pointed base and apex, and have margins that are often curved downwards. White stipules protect the leaf buds. Inflorescences, comprise large, dark crimson flowers in compact clusters of 6-14, and are borne at the terminal ends of twigs. The fruit is hard and woody, oval-shaped, about 2 cm, and splits into two halves to release seeds.
Canopy species in forests above 1800 m. The only tree present in 'wet patana' grasslands
Subspecies (Rhododendron arboreum zeylanicum) is endemic. A fire resistant tree