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A dwarf evergreen shrub 4 to 6 in. high, forming dense tufts, and spreading by underground shoots; stems slender and wiry, covered with bristles, and bearing over their whole length leaves 1⁄4 in. apart in two opposite rows. Leaves leathery, heart-shaped, becoming smaller towards the tip of the shoot, 1⁄4 to 5⁄8 in. long, about the same wide; the lower surface and the margins are bristly, the upper side dark dull green and wrinkled, the lower one very pale polished green; stalk 1⁄8 in. or less long. Flowers produced singly in the leaf-axils from the underside during August; corolla egg-shaped, white or tinged with pink, scarcely 1⁄4 in. long. Fruits bluish black, rarely borne on cultivated plants.
Native of the Himalaya and thence north-east to W. China and south-east to Java and Sumatra; introduced from the Himalaya in the 19th century and later, by Forrest and other collectors, from China. Its roundish leaves, closely and regularly set in two rows, and gradually decreasing in size towards the end of the shoot, with the slender, conspicuously bristly stems, render it quite distinct from any other plant in cultivation except Vaccinium nummularia. It makes charming tufts of foliage and stems, but needs some shelter.
G. nummularioides is somewhat variable, and the above description is of a representative specimen and not of the species in its totality. In var. elliptica Rehd. & Wils., found by Wilson in W. Szechwan, the leaves are elliptic, cuneate at the base. In a form introduced by Forrest the stems are very slender and quite prostrate, the leaves very small; it was distributed under the horticultural epithet minuta.
A dwarf form of the species is in cultivation at Wakehurst Place from seeds collected in the Himalaya by the late Oleg Polunin.