A deciduous shrub up to 6 or 8 ft high, with slender branches, grey-felted when young, becoming glabrous and reddish brown later. Leaves oval or ovate, sometimes roundish, tapering towards the base, 1⁄2 to 11⁄4 in. in length, dark green and ultimately glabrous above; grey-felted beneath. Flowers white, in clusters of four to twelve or more on felted stalks. Fruit roundish, bright red.
Native of N. Africa and of W. and Central Asia as far east as Turkestan; first described from plants growing in the Jardin de Plantes, Paris, in 1829 and introduced to Britain shortly thereafter. It is best known in cultivation by its Chinese varieties, introduced by Wilson. The attributions of the Plantae Wilsonianae are retained here; but his specimens have recently been re-studied by other botanists and their judgements are noted in due place.
var. microcarpus Rehd. & Wils. – Fruits smaller than in the type or in var. soongoricus, ovoid, bright red; introduced by Wilson from W. Szechwan. In describing it, the authors remarked that it might represent a distinct species; if it were to rank as such, it would probably fall under C. potaninii, a species described in 1961 by the Russian botanist Poyarkova.
var. nummularius (Fisch. & Mey.) Dipp. C. nummularius Fisch. & Mey. – A shrub of rather dwarf habit, 4 to 5 ft high, with more rounded leaves than in the type; native of Asia Minor and parts of Central Asia. It has been confused with the C. nummularius of Lindley, for which see C. lindleyi.
var. soongoricus (Reg. & Herd.) Schneid. C. fontanesii var. soongoricus Reg. & Herd.; C. soongoricus (Reg. & Herd.) Popov – A native of Central Asia, first described from specimens collected in the region known as Dzungaria. Later, Wilson introduced a cotoneaster from W. Szechwan which was referred to this variety in Plantae Wilsonianae, but by the Russian botanist Poyarkova it is considered to be a distinct species – C. tomentellus. Wilson recorded it as common in arid river valleys and considered it to be one of the finest that he collected. In cultivation it has proved to be a graceful and exceptionally free-fruiting shrub, thriving even in dry, sandy soil. The Award of Merit was given in 1960 to a form with rose-coloured berries, shown by Maurice Mason of Kings Lynn, Norfolk.
A number of cotoneaster specimens collected in recent years in the E. Himalaya are referred to this variety by Yü and of these LSH 19632 has been introduced. This was found by Ludlow, Sherriff and Hicks in Bhutan in 1949 and has been given specific rank by Klotzl(1963) as C. ludlowii.
var. veitchii Rehd. & Wils. C. veitchii (Rehd. & Wils.) Klotz – Leaves elliptic, sharply tapered at the apex, but chiefly distinguished from the type by its larger flowers (up to 3⁄5 in. across) and by its larger fruit, which is more or less globose and up to 1⁄2 in. wide. J. R. Sealy (Bot. Mag. under n.s., t. 245) considers that this variety has more affinity with C. hupehensis than with C. racemiflorus.