A low, procumbent, deciduous shrub a few inches high, shoots glabrous, reddish. Leaves obovate to oblanceolate, narrowed at the base to a slightly flattened stalk, often ciliate, 1⁄2 to 11⁄4 in. long, bright green, shallowly toothed. Flowers in terminal clusters of two to four; corolla urn-shaped, 1⁄5 in. long, with four or five small ciliate teeth; white tinged with pink; anthers chocolate-brown. Fruit a berry-like black-purple drupe about the size of a black currant.
Native of the northern latitudes of Europe, Asia, and N. America. It occurs in a good many mountainous places of Scotland, including Ben Nevis and Ben Wyvis, Skye, Orkney, and Shetland. Its leaves often turn bright red in autumn. The best place for it is a cool damp spot in the rock garden.
var. ruber Rehd. & Wils. – Fruits bright red. This variety is based on a plant found by Wilson in W. Szechwan, China, but similar forms have been reported from the mountains of western N. America.