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A deciduous shrub 2 to 3 ft high, with glabrous, slender young shoots, often produced in tiers. Leaves mostly clustered at the end of the twigs, obovate to oval, tapered towards both ends, usually more abruptly towards the apex, edged with bristle-like hairs and having a few larger bristles on the midrib, otherwise glabrous, 3⁄4 to 3 in. long, 1⁄2 to 11⁄4 in. wide; stalk 1⁄8 in. or less long. Flowers nodding, produced in May in umbel-like clusters at the end of the shoots of the previous year. Corolla between bell-shaped and urn-shaped, 5⁄8 in. long, 1⁄4 in. wide, with four or five small lobes, yellowish green at the base, purplish at and near the lobes; glabrous outside, downy within. Stamens eight or ten, shorter than the corolla, very downy at the lower part. Calyx slightly lobed, fringed with glandular bristles. Flower-stalk 1⁄2 to 11⁄8 in. long, glandular-bristly.
Native of Japan, named by Maximowicz in 1870; introduced about 1914. It is quite a pretty shrub but the var. purpurea (see below) is to be preferred.
† cv. ‘Buchanan’s Dwarf’. – Slow growing and of dwarf, spreading habit. It was distributed by Jack Drake’s nursery and received an Award of Merit in 1983 when exhibited by Barry Starling (Bull. Alp. Gard. Soc., Vol. 51, p. 316 (1983)).
M. lasiophylla Nakai
Flowers purplish pink; some of the hairs on the flower-stalks eglandular. Leaves with long hairs or almost glabrous above. It is probable that most of the plants grown in British gardens as M. purpurea belong to this variety and not to the true M. purpurea Maxim. In the Botanical Magazine, n.s., t. 35, a flowering spray is figured, taken from a plant at Borde Hill, Sussex, in which the flowers are coloured as in var. purpurea but the flower-stalks bear eglandular hairs only. This variant was named var. eglandulosa by the late Dr Turrill in his note accompanying the plate, but it is perhaps no more than an extreme state of var. purpurea. Commercial plants distributed as “M. purpurea” show the same character; they and the Borde Hill plant may well be all of one clone.M. ciliicalyx var. purpurea is one of the most charming of small ericaceous shrubs. It is quite hardy and flowers unfailingly every year if grown in a not too shady position. The expanding buds are bright blue and almost as decorative as the flowers. In a well-lighted position it makes a bushy plant about 3 ft high.