Shrub to 1.5 m tall, erect to prostrate, often shedding its leaves in the spring dry season. Shoots often reddish brown, ribbed, glandular and with dense stiff hairs. Leaves ovate to elliptic, 1.4–3 × 0.5–2 cm, rounded to cuneate at the base, rounded to pointed at the tip; veins conspicuously raised, midrib with dense stiff hairs under the base; margin crenate or with 5–6 distant teeth; petiole 3–5 mm. Flowers July–December, fragrant, hanging, paired and opening consecutively, rarely single. Calyx lobes 5, sepals narrowly lanceolate, 5–6 × 0.5–1 mm, often reddish, pubescent. Corolla funnel-shaped, purple to indigo, densely pubescent and glandular, 20–30 mm long, lower third of tube straight; mouth usually glabrous, 10–12 mm wide, unmarked; lobes 5, spreading, ciliate. Nectary a single band of glandular hairs on ventral side of corolla tube. Stamens 4, exserted. Style glabrous, exserted. Fruit October-January. (Landrein & Farjon 2020).
Distribution Mexico Oaxaca, Queretaro, San Luis Potosí
Habitat Limestone outcrops, pine and oak forests and deciduous tropical forests, 1700–2700 m asl.
USDA Hardiness Zone 8
RHS Hardiness Rating H4
Conservation status Vulnerable (VU)
Vesalea mexicana occupies two disjunct mountain areas of Mexico; the plants in Queretaro and San Luis Potosí are identified by Landrein and Farjon as var. grandifolia (Villarreal) Landrein and have leaves with crenate margins, while those from further south in Oaxaca (var. mexicana) have leaves with no more than six distant teeth; the former populations is assessed by Landrein and Farjon as Vulnerable and the latter as Endangered (Landrein & Farjon 2020). These taxa were first described (as Abelia grandifolia and A. mexicana) by José Villarreal in 2000. Var. mexicana is cultivated at the San Franciso Botanical Garden from a collection made by the late Dennis Breedlove (Breedlove 72232); this collection has a rather weeping habit (Landrein & Farjon 2020). Its requirements in cultivation seem likely to be similar to those of the relatively widely grown V. floribunda.