An evergreen shrub 8 to 10 ft high (probably more in a wild state), with stout, glabrous branchlets. Leaves prominently three-veined, 11⁄2 to 3 in. long, two-thirds as much wide; broadly ovate or roundish, often with a slightly heart-shaped base, finely toothed; very shiny and dark green above, downy and much paler beneath. Flowers dull white, crowded on stout panicles which are 4 to 5 in. long, and spring from the leaf-axils. Bot. Mag., t. 5165.
Native of California; first discovered by Douglas; introduced by W. Lobb about 1853. Its most distinctive feature is its large, dark green foliage, so glossy as to appear varnished; the flowers are not very showy, and appear late in the season. It requires the protection of a wall.
var. laevigatus (Hook.) Torr. & Gr. – This, which has leaves quite glabrous, is represented by a plant growing on a wall at Kew. It flowers every year in October and November, and is at all times noticeable for its large, leathery, varnished green leaves, which, as in the type, are quite viscous during the summer, and have a distinct resinous odour.
C. × mendocinensis McMinn – A natural hybrid between C. velutinus var. laevigatus and C. thyrsiflorus, reported from Mendocino and neighbouring counties where the two species are in contact. Leaves ovate, to 21⁄2 in. long and 1 in. wide, glabrous, dark green and glossy above, glaucous beneath; three-veined. Flowers pale blue or lavender in almost sessile umbels arranged in racemes or panicles 2 to 4 in. long; common stalk and rachis glabrous. The same hybrid may have occurred in gardens.
From the Supplement (Vol. V)
Although this species is indeed, as stated, a native of California, it has a much wider range, extending northward as far as British Columbia, and eastward into the Rocky Mountains. This applies to the typical variety, the var. laevigatus being confined to areas near the coast. Although the original introductions may have been tender, some provenances might prove to be quite hardy (the species ascends to about 4,000 ft in Oregon and Washington).