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A shrub to about 6 ft high in cultivation and normally no taller in the wild, though exceptionally it attains there the dimensions of a small tree; branches stout; young growths densely hairy and remaining so through the winter. Stipules very small, or lacking, except on strong shoots. Leaves oblong-elliptic, oblong-ovate or obovate, acute to obtuse at the apex, cuneate at the base, mostly 11⁄2 to 3 in. long and 3⁄4 to 11⁄2 in. wide, upper surface soon glabrous, glossy and reticulate, underside with an indumentum of variable persistence and density, sometimes almost glabrous and glaucous, sometimes, as in the cultivated plants, permanently coated with a loose, soft, whitish felt, margins obscurely toothed; petiole 3⁄8 to 3⁄4 in. long. Catkins produced before or with the leaves, sessile or short-stalked; bracts long-hairy, dark brown. Male catkins stout, 1 to 2 in long; stamens two, free, with glabrous filaments. Female catkins 13⁄4 to 41⁄2 in. long; ovaries glabrous or hairy, short-stalked; style short, but longer than the slightly bilobed stigmas.
Native of the coastal regions of western N. America from Alaska to California. Although introduced to Kew towards the end of the last century it is scarcely known in gardens and deserves to be more widely grown, judging from the plants in the Hillier Arboretum, which make stiffly branched shrubs of picturesque habit, about 6 ft high (1979). They are male and we are told by the Canadian authority Dr George Argus, who kindly confirmed their identity, that they represent the tomentose form of the species. Never occurring far from the sea in its native habitats, S. hookeriana might succeed in exposed coastal gardens.