An evergreen shrub of somewhat irregular habit, growing from 3 to 5 ft (probably more) high, with a shreddy bark; young wood clothed with dense hairs. Leaves oblong or ovate, rounded or slightly heart-shaped at the base, abruptly pointed, 1 to 2 in. long, 1⁄2 to 1 in. wide, not toothed, leathery, dull greyish green, downy above, thickly felted beneath; stalk 1⁄8 to 1⁄4 in. long, hairy. Flowers produced from March to May, densely, in short, drooping racemes 1 to 2 in. long, from the end of the previous season's growth, and in the axils of one or two of the uppermost leaves. Corolla white, pitcher-shaped, 1⁄4 in. long; sepals rounded, hairy on the margins; flower-stalks very hairy, 1⁄8 to 1⁄4 in. long. Fruit a berry, brownish red, orange-shaped, 1⁄3 in. wide, downy. Bot. Mag., t. 3320.
Native of the coast regions of California; discovered by Alexander Menzies about 1793 on the Monterey peninsula. It is a rare shrub, but was once grown successfully at Kew in peaty soil. Some plants grown as A. tomentosa have proved to be A. columbiana Piper, another hairy species, but distinguished by its smooth, not shaggy, bark and bright red fruits; it has a more northerly range, and extends into British Columbia.
Like A. patula, A. tomentosa develops a woody burl at the base from which new shoots are quickly produced if the plant is cut to the ground by fire – a peculiarity seen in other manzanitas not described here, and also in the species of Eucalyptus known as 'mallees'.
var. trichoclada (DC.) Munz – Branchlets glandular-hairy and often downy also; leaves and inflorescence glandular; found with the type.
From the Supplement (Vol. V)
A. columbiana, mentioned under this species, has brown fruits, not bright red.