An evergreen shrub 4 to 8 ft high in this country, but becoming a small tree 25 ft high in its native home; young shoots, inflorescence, leaf-stalks, and midribs covered with dense down; bark peeling. Leaves ovate, heart-shaped or oval, 11⁄4 to 21⁄2 in. long, 3⁄4 to 13⁄4 in. wide, entire, thick and leathery; at first of a dull grey, afterwards bright grey-green, slightly downy when young; leaf-stalk stout, 1⁄8 to 1⁄2 in. long. Flowers produced in March and April in short terminal panicles about 11⁄2 in. long and wide, lasting long in beauty. Corolla egg-shaped, about 1⁄4 in. long, deep pink, with five small, rounded teeth at the nearly closed mouth; sepals whitish; flower-stalks slender, 1⁄4 in. or less long. Fruit not seen in Britain, but described as a brownish-red, orange-shaped berry 1⁄3 to 1⁄2 in. wide. Bot. Mag., t. 8128.
Native of California; introduced to Kew in 1897. This shrub requires a sunny position and a peaty, well-drained soil. Cuttings will not take root easily, at least a way has not yet been found, so far as I know, to make them do so. It is impatient of root disturbance, and should be given a permanent place early, and till then grown in pots. Its stiff, somewhat gaunt branches, red where not hidden by peeling bark; the rigid, hard, grey foliage; and the short, crowded flower-clusters, give this rare shrub a most distinct appearance. 'Manzanita', which has been selected for its specific name, is an old Spanish-Californian term for the bushy members of the genus generally.
A. pungens H.B.K. – An allied species but with a more southerly distribution, distinguished by its smaller leaves (to 11⁄4 in. at the most in length and usually shorter) and smaller fruit (about 1⁄4 in. wide). Flowers white, in compact racemes or panicles, the common stalks characteristically thickened towards the apex.
From the Supplement (Vol. V)
As mentioned on page 317, this species and A. pungens are closely allied. The latter has priority and J. B. Roof has placed A. manzanita under it as subsp. manzanita.