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Small to medium-sized tree, 6–15 m, dbh to 60 cm, with dense, compact crown. Bark pale grey, thick, furrowed and scaly, dark red and peeling on branches and twigs. Leaves lanceolate, 3.7–7.5 × 1.2–2.5 cm, apex obtuse to acute, margins entire or finely denticulate, coriaceous, pale green; petiole long. Inflorescence a loose panicle 5–8 cm long. Corolla urceolate, 6–8 mm, white to pink, ovary glabrous. Fruits rounded, 7–10 mm across, orange - red, ripening October or November. Flowering April to September (Mexico). Standley 1924, Powell 1998. Distribution MEXICO: Sonora, Chihuahua, Durango, Zacatecas; USA: southwestern Arizona, southeastern New Mexico. Habitat Dry gravelly terraces and mountain slopes between 1200 and 2400 m asl, oak and pine woodland. USDA Hardiness Zone 8–9. Conservation status Not evaluated. Illustration Hogan 2008. Cross-reference K164.
Arbutus arizonica is rare in cultivation, probably because of the difficulties associated with getting it established. It is thought to be hardy to at least –12ºC, but high-altitude provenances should be sought, that may have greater frost tolerance (Hogan 2008). There are trees in the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley, grown from a collection made by Sean Hogan in Coquise Co., Arizona in 1991, but elsewhere any plants are still relatively small or hopeful seedlings.