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Shrub 2–6 m, with long arching branches. Bark brown, waxy at first. Leaves trifoliolate, glabrous throughout; upper surface greyish-green, pale green below, leaflets broadly-ovate to elliptic or rounded (2–)2.5–8(–15) cm, margins crenulate-serrulate, apex short-acuminate to apiculate. Inflorescence a pendulous panicle, appearing before or with the leaves, with 9–15 flowers. Flowers narrowly tubular; sepals white, 5–7(–9) mm; petals narrowly oblong or oblanceolate, 7–8(–12) mm, apex not recurved; filaments exserted, 9–10(–15) mm, longer than petals, glabrous; styles equal to or surpassing stamens, glabrous. Capsules ellipsoid, (2.5–)3.5–4(–5.5) cm, usually with 3 locules.
Distribution United States California; in the foothills and at the lower elevations of the Cascades and Klamath ranges, the Sierra Nevada, and the Tehachapi Mountains.
Habitat Chaparral, foothill woodlands, yellow pine forests, slopes, and canyon sides; (200–)300–1400 m.
USDA Hardiness Zone 6b
RHS Hardiness Rating H5
Conservation status Not evaluated (NE)
Although introduced to Europe in 1879 (Krüssmann, G. (1986)) Staphylea bolanderi is seldom seen in gardens, and is apparently seldom grown even in the United States: the California Native Plant Society’s website states that it is ‘never or almost never available’ http://calscape.org/Staphylea-bolanderi-(). Writing in 1980, Weaver said that it had been tried “a number of times at the Arnold Arboretum, but it has never survived more than a few years”. Like so many other Californian plants, it probably dislikes the combination of heat and moisture; in northern Europe it should be given a place in full sun. It is noteworthy for its narrowly tubular flowers that suggest those of its congener Arctostaphylos, and Gardiner (2011) reports that it has yellow leaves in autumn. It is grown at Bedgebury in Kent, but Dan Luscombe (pers. comm. 2018) reports that it is very much the poor relation when compared to other species that are more vigorous and more floriferous in cultivation.