A much-branched shrub up to 3 ft high, the shoots densely covered with down amidst which are numerous white outstanding hairs. Leaves stalkless, ovate-oblong, blunt at the apex, three-nerved and rounded at the base; 1 to 21⁄2 in. long, 1⁄4 to 3⁄4 in. wide; very hairy, the hairs on the upper surface and at the margins long, whitish, simple; those beneath short, starry. Flowers 11⁄2 in. diameter, white, with a yellow stain near the base of each petal; produced in a terminal cymose cluster. Sepals five, outer ones heart-shaped, 3⁄4 in. long, with a broad base 1⁄2 in. wide, and a tapered point; inner ones ovate, smaller, all shaggy with white hairs.
Native of Spain and Portugal (it is not a native of France but has become naturalised there in Britanny near Landerneau); introduced about the middle of the seventeenth century. An almost hardy species, only injured in exceptionally severe winters. With C. salviifolius and C. populifolius it forms the group Ledonia, characterised by large, heart-shaped outer sepals. It is distinguished from the other two by its stalkless leaves.
var. psilosepalus (Sweet) Willk. C. psilosepalus Sweet – Leaves on short stalks; outer sepals glabrous on the back, with ciliate margins.
C. × laxus Ait. f. – A hybrid between C. hirsutus and C. populifolius. A shrub to about 4 ft high. Leaves ovate-lanceolate, hairy when young, three-veined at the base, short-stalked. Flowers white, about 2 in. wide; petals marked with yellow at the base; sepals five, hairy, cordate at the base. It occurs wild in Spain and Portugal and has also been raised in gardens. According to Aiton, it was cultivated in 1656 by John Tradescant. See also C. × nigricans.
C. × platysepalus Sweet – A hybrid between C. hirsutus and C. monspeliensis which has been found wild in Portugal and also raised in gardens. It is intermediate between the parents, the leaves being less hairy than in C. hirsutus and ovate-lanceolate in shape. Abnormal forms which lack stamens have been reported.