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A dwarf shrub 1 to 11⁄2 ft high, of bushy habit, sometimes procumbent; young shoots slender, silky-hairy at first. Leaves ovate to elliptic (narrowly to broadly so) finely toothed, tapered at both ends, 1 to 2 in. long, 3⁄8 to 1 in. wide, bright green and, at least when dried, conspicuously net-veined on both sides, silky only when young; stalk 1⁄8 in. or less long. Stipules usually well-developed on strong shoots, about 1⁄4 in. long. Catkins erect, borne on short leafy shoots in May; scales brownish purple, hairy. Male catkins cylindrical, up to 11⁄4 in. long; anthers usually reddish at first. Female catkins up to 2 in. long. Ovary downy, with a long style, the stigmas divided into narrow-lobes, usually purplish.
Native of northern Eurasia, from Scotland and the Orkneys eastward to Kamtschatka. It is suitable for the rock garden, but not so ornamental a species as S. alpina (see below). The withered leaves usually persist on the branchlets – a peculiarity that helps to distinguish it from S. alpina and S. breviserrata (see below). S. arbuscula, with which S. myrsinites might be confused, has smaller leaves, pale green and often hairy beneath, small, fugacious stipules, and yellow, often red-tinged anthers.
S. alpina Scop. S. fusca Jacq.; S. jacquinii Host; S. jacquiniana Willd.; S. myrsinites var. jacquiniana (Willd.) Koch – Closely related to S. myrsinites but always of procumbent habit and with entire, deciduous leaves. Native of the eastern Alps and the Carpathians. It is not unlike S. retusa, with which it occurs in the wild, but in that species the leaves are not conspicuously net-veined above, and the catkin-scales are yellow (in S. alpina they are brownish purple, as in S. myrsinites). A male plant of S. alpina received an Award of Merit in 1956.
S. breviserrata Flod. S. myrsinites of many authors, not L. sens. strict.; S. arbutifolia Willd., not Pall. – Very near to S. myrsinites, from which it was separated by the Swedish botanist Floderus in 1940. Withered leaves deciduous. Catkins stouter, about half as wide as long. Native of the Alps.