Small shrub, to 180 cm tall. Shoots greyish, with stiff hairs, sometimes spine-tipped after flowering; older bark stringy. Leaves ovate to suborbicular, 3–16 × 2–11 mm, obtuse at base and tip; thick and densely glandular, sparsely pubescent; margin slightly revolute, entire or distantly toothed; petiole 0.5–2 mm long. Flowers May–October; inflorescence a raceme on short shoots with 2–6 single or paired flowers, fragrant and hanging. Calyx lobes 5, sepals narrowly lanceolate, 2.5–5 × 0.5–1 mm; corolla narrowly funnel-shaped, violet to indigo, pubescent, glandular; corolla tube 10–18 mm long, the lower quarter of the tube narrow; mouth glabrous and unmarked, 4–5 mm wide. Nectary a single band of glandular hairs. Style glabrous, exserted; stamens inserted; filaments glabrous. Fruits July-December. (Landrein & Farjon 2020).
Distribution Mexico Coahuila, Chihuahua, Nuevo León
Habitat Semi-deserts, and pine and oak forests on limestone, 1200–2500 m asl.
USDA Hardiness Zone 7
RHS Hardiness Rating H4
Conservation status Least concern (LC)
Taxonomic note Since Vesalea subcoriacea is considered synonymous with V. coriacea by Christenhusz (Christenhusz 2013) and some other authorities, the combination within Linnaea has not yet been made.
As understood by Landrein and Farjon (Landrein & Farjon 2020) this is a widespread and diverse species, with small, rounded leathery leaves and small but vividly purple flowers. Landrein and Farjon recognise two varieties, var. subcoriacea from Coahuila and Nuevo León, and the north-western var. spinosa Landrein, mostly found in Chihuahua. Var. subcoriacea is now cultivated at the San Francisco Botanical Garden, from plants collected in San Isidro Canyon, Nuevo León (Landrein & Farjon 2020); it may be less likely to thrive in the cooler, humid climate of north-western Europe.