An evergreen shrub of bushy habit, 10 to 12 ft high in this country; young wood purple, covered with short, dense down. Leaves 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 in. apart, sometimes slightly heart-shaped at the base, but usually rounded or tapering; 1⁄2 to 11⁄2 in. long, 1⁄3 to 3⁄4 in. wide; of firm leathery texture, finely and regularly toothed, dark glossy green above, paler beneath and glabrous except for some short, scattered bristles beneath and some down on the midrib above. Flowers produced in May and June four to six together in short, nodding racemes from the leaf-axils, white, roundish, bell-shaped, with five small, recurved, triangular lobes. Berries black, round, 1⁄3 in. in diameter. Bot. Mag., t. 4732.
Native of the coastal regions of western N. America from Alaska to California; discovered by Menzies during Vancouver’s voyage and introduced by Douglas in 1826. Although hardy enough to withstand the hardest winters experienced at Kew it may suffer in severe frost through the cutting back of the younger growth, and prefers woodland conditions. It is a handsome shrub when seen at its best, with its densely set glossy leaves, which are pinkish brown when unfolding and often take on a purple tone in winter. It grows well in deep shade and will even give a good account of itself where the soil is rooty, but needs lighter conditions if it is to produce its flowers, which in some forms do not open until August. The fruits, not borne freely with us, are variable in quality; the finest form, with large juicy fruits, was named var. saporosum by Jepson. The foliage is useful for floral decoration, and is cut in such quantity from wild stands that the species is becoming scarce in some areas.