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An evergreen shrub 3 to 6 ft high; young shoots glabrous or nearly so. Leaves narrowly oval, tapered at both ends, of thin firm texture, distantly or scarcely toothed at all, 1 to 3 in. long, 1⁄2 to 1 in. wide, dark green, glabrous; stalk 1⁄8 in. or less long. Racemes 1 to 2 in. long, minutely downy, carrying a dozen or more flowers, sometimes forming a kind of panicle of short flowering twigs; each flower is in the axil of a small, persistent, leafy bract of linear-lanceolate shape and 1⁄8 to 3⁄8 in. long. Corolla white, slender, cylindrical, 1⁄4 in. long, tapering slightly to the mouth which has tiny triangular lobes, minutely downy outside; calyx lobes triangular, downy; stamens downy. Fruits globose, 1⁄4 in. wide, red, downy.
Native of Japan, Korea, and China; apparently first introduced by John Reeves of Canton to Loddiges’ nursery at Hackney in 1829; it was figured in their Botanical Cabinet (t. 1648) the following year. Reintroduced from China by the late Maurice de Vilmorin in 1914. Its distinctive characters are its downy, slender corolla and conspicuous bracts like tiny leaves which are borne on the main flower-stalk. Although perhaps best suited for the southwestern counties and similarly mild localities, where it should make a cheerful evergreen, it is hardy enough and flowered freely in August or September when grown at Kew, reaching 5 ft in height there.