An evergreen shrub of low, spreading, or even prostrate habit, rarely more than 2 to 3 ft high unless trained. Branches often slender but rigid, woolly when young. Leaves 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 in. long, half or less than half as wide; ovate or obovate, deep glossy green above, grey and woolly beneath, pointed, rounded or notched at the apex. Flowers white, 1⁄3 in. across, generally solitary (occasionally two or three). Fruit round, scarlet-red, 1⁄4 in. in diameter.
Native of the Himalaya and S.W. China; introduced in 1824. This pleasing evergreen is a near relation of C. prostratus and of C. conspicuus. The former is, however, a more robust shrub with larger, broadly ovate to almost rounded leaves and a usually two- or three-flowered inflorescence. The latter (treated by Yü as a variety of the present species) may be distinguished by its narrow elliptic to oblong leaves, and the larger flowers and fruit. Another close ally is C. congestus (q.v. for the marks of distinction).
C. microphyllus makes a pretty covering for sloping banks, forming eventually a dense, low thicket, though a really prostrate form of the more recently introduced C. conspicuus is to be preferred. Single plants make a pretty evergreen furnishing for the rock garden, but where space is limited var. thymifolius or C. congestus are more suitable.
var. cochleatus (Franch.) Rehd. & Wils. C. buxifolius f. cochleatus- Franch. C. cochleatus (Franch.) Klotz – A more strictly prostrate and compact variety with obovate or oval leaves rounded or notched at the apex, hairy beneath like the shoots when quite young. Native of the Himalaya from Nepali eastward, and of China. It was given an Award of Merit in 1931 for the beauty of its brightly coloured fruits.
f. melanotrichus (Franch.) Hand.-Mazz. C. buxifolius f. melanotrichus Franch. – Franchet made this forma out of a herbarium specimen on which the leaves were covered beneath with black hairs. However, there is little doubt that this peculiarity was simply due to a fungus. Plants in cultivation as “C. melanotrichus” are either C. microphyllus or the var. cochleatus.
var. thymifolius (Lindl.) Koehne C. thymifolius Lindl. – A dwarf or prostrate close-habited shrub, with numerous rigid branches. Leaves narrower than in the type, and made to appear more so by the curling under of the margins. Besides being narrower, they also differ in being uniformly blunt at the apex and broadest towards the end. Fruit and flower as in the type, but smaller.
Native of the Himalaya at high elevations. In earlier editions the author remarked that this plant, then treated as a species, was perhaps merely an alpine form of C. microphyllus, smaller in all its parts, and the status it now assumes is in conformity with that view. But his warning must be repeated – that the close, tight, bright-leaved evergreen known in gardens as C. thymifolius may not breed true from seed and should be propagated from cuttings.