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A deciduous thicket-forming shrub usually under 4 ft high in the wild, but occasionally reaching 10 ft; branchlets stout, downy; spurs short, covered with the persistent blackish bud-scales. Leaves thin, broadly oval, blunt or shortly acuminate at the apex, broadly wedge-shaped to rounded at the base, 3⁄4 to 13⁄4 in. long, 1⁄2 to 1 in. wide, rich green above, paler glaucous green beneath, glabrous except for scattered short bristles on the upper surface and usually some sparse down on the midrib beneath, margins doubly serrate; leaf-stalks 1⁄8 to 3⁄16 in. long, slightly downy. Flowers in clusters of two to five on stalks about 1 in. long on cultivated plants (shorter on wild specimens). Calyx-tube 5⁄16 to 3⁄8 in. long, between bell-shaped and cylindrical, puckered, green tinged with red; sepals oblong or oblong-ovate, obtuse, edged with stalked glands. Petals about 1⁄4 in. long, 3⁄16 in. wide, rosy pink. Fruits roundish, red, about 3⁄8 in. wide. Bot. Mag., n.s., t. 494.
Native of the high mountains of N.W. Yunnan and bordering parts of Burma and S.E. Tibet (Tsarong), where it forms dense thickets in the subalpine and alpine zone up to 13,000 ft; introduced by George Forrest in 1922 from the Salween-Kiu Chiang divide. His F.22874 was from plants 3 ft high, but F.22875 came from a stand 3 to 9 ft high, which helps to explain why some cultivated plants grow taller than the 3 to 4 ft given by Handel-Mazzetti. P. mugus is an interesting cherry, and would be one of the most ornamental if it flowered more freely.
P. mugus is quite closely related to the Himalayan P. rufa, which is a tree and has larger leaves, covered when young with a rusty down. Another ally is P. latidentata Koehne, varieties of which are in cultivation. They are, however, of no ornamental value and are not further treated here. See Ingram, Ornamental Cherries, pp. 139–42.