An evergreen shrub, usually 2 or 3 (sometimes 4 or 5) ft high, with thin, wiry, branches, and a sparse, gaunt habit; young wood scaly. Leaves alternate, 3⁄4 to 13⁄4 in. long, 3⁄8 to 3⁄4 in. wide; obovate or narrowly oblong, shallowly toothed, but often only on the terminal half; both surfaces, but especially the lower one, covered with tiny scales. Flowers produced in March and April, singly in the axils of small leaves, at the terminal part, and on the lower side of the previous year’s shoots, the whole forming a leafy raceme 2 to 4 in. long. The leaves associated with the flowers are much smaller than the ordinary ones described above, and become gradually smaller towards the end, where they are only 1⁄4 in. or less in length. Corolla white, 1⁄4 in. long, cylindrical, five-toothed at the mouth; calyx-lobes five, pointed, persistent, enclosing the base of the seed-vessel, which is a roundish, flattened capsule; flower-stalk scaly, 1⁄8 in. long, with two bracteoles close beneath the calyx. Bot. Mag., t. 1286.
Native of eastern N. America, whence it was introduced in 1748; also of N. Europe and N. Asia. It is a rather pretty shrub in flower, although not amongst the elite of the Ericaceae. A better plant for gardens is:
var. nana (Lodd.) Rehd. – This grows 12 to 18 in. high, and forms a dwarf, dense thicket, having a more twiggy habit and smaller leaves. It makes a pleasing small group. Both are propagated by cuttings or by seeds and thrive in a moist peaty soil.