A thicket-forming shrub less than 1 m tall. Shoots yellow-brown to glaucous, with dense, soft, straight hairs; older bark grey or brown, shredding. Leaves orbicular to ovate, 10–30 × 5–18 mm, tip rarely acute or mucronate; grey-green and hairy above, grey beneath and more densely pubescent; margins entire or sometimes crenate; petiole 1–4 mm, pubescent. Flowers June–July, almost sessile, usually paired in the upper axils; bracts shorter than ovary; calyx lobes 2 mm long; corolla light pink to white, tubular to bell-shaped, symmetrical, 9–10 mm long, pilose within on the lower part, with 5 small basal nectaries; corolla lobes 1 mm long; anthers 2–2.5 mm long, reaching only to the base of the corolla-lobes; style glabrous, 3–4 mm long. Fruit white, ovoid to orbicular, 10 × 6–7 mm. Nutlet flattened, 4.5–5 × 3 mm. (Jones 1940).
Distribution Mexico Baja California United States Arizona, California, Colorada, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah
Habitat Dry, high-altitude forests and sage-brush, 1200–3200 m asl.
USDA Hardiness Zone 4
RHS Hardiness Rating H7
Conservation status Not evaluated (NE)
Taxonomic note Plants of the World Online (Plants of the World Online 2021) follows Allred (Allred 2012) in treating as synonymous with Symphoricarpos rotundifolius a number of taxa which were considered by Jones (Jones 1940) as good species. Bell (Bell 2009) and a number of other American authorities differ by maintaining at least two of these (S. oreophilus and S. palmeri) as good species; genetic analysis by Bell (Bell 2010) has suggested that S. oreophilus in particular is not very closely related to S. rotundifolius (sensu stricto). However, Bell treats S. parishii as a synonym of S. rotundifolius while Plants of the World Online treats it as a good species; genetic analysis seems not to have resolved this issue. For convenience, rather than to indicate any particular taxonomic stance, all four of these taxa receive individual entries here.
As understood here, Symphoricarpos rotundifolius is a fairly scarce and local species from the southern Rocky Mountains, differing from the more widespread S. oreophyllus is its general hairiness and from S. mollis in its less prostrate habit and much longer, slenderer flowers (Jones 1940). It is scarcely a garden plant under any name, though S. rotundifolius is advertised for sale in the United States by (Sevenoaks Native Nursery).