Procumbent or trailing shrub with stems to 80 cm long; shoot grey, velvety with short straight spreading hairs. Mature bark shredding. Buds hairy, ovoid, to 1 mm long. Leaves ovate, 10–30 × 6–18 mm, usually with an acute tipe, dark green and variably pubescent above, pale green and densely pubescent beneath, with reticulate veins; margin often sinuate or distantly toothed or with odd lobes; petiole pubescent, 2–3 mm long. Flowers opening (in the wild) June–July, 1 or 2 in axils, shortly pedicellate; bracts and bractlets oval, densely pubescent; calyx 4 or 5-toothed; sepals ciliate, acute, with a short pubescence on their back side. Corolla bright pink, bell-shaped, 4–5 mm long; lobes obtuse, as long as the tube; villous within; stamens shorter than corolla, anthers 1 mm; style 2–2.5 mm long, glabrous. Fruits 1 or 2 in axils, 4–6 mm wide, white; nutlets 4 × 2 mm. (Jones 1940).
Distribution United States California, Nevada, Oregon
Habitat Dry mountainsides, to 2500 m asl.
USDA Hardiness Zone 5a
RHS Hardiness Rating H6
Conservation status Not evaluated (NE)
In its low, trailing habit, Symphoricarpos acutus resembles the more widespread S. mollis, but flowers later and has less hairy, less rounded and more often lobed or toothed leaves. Some authorities treat it a variety of S. mollis, while others such as Charles Bell (Bell 2009) consider it a synonym or a variant of the common and upright S. albus subsp. laevigatus. In the United States the taxon has been cultivated since 1888 (Jones 1940) and remains commercially available, but it has probably not never been introduced to north-western Europe, where few gardens are likely to match the conditions this plant favours in the wild.
It is possible that the matt-forming garden clone ‘San Bruno Mountain’, selected by the California Flora Nursery from a plant found on this Californian mountain and sold by them as a form of Symphoricarpos albus subsp. laevigatus (q.v.), is better placed under S. acutus.