A semi-evergreen or deciduous shrub 4 to 8 ft high, with stiff branches often arranged in two opposite rows; branchlets downy. Leaves usually in two rows, dark glossy green, 1⁄3 to 1⁄2 in. long, roundish, broadly ovate or oval, with a short, abrupt point; hairy on both sides when young, especially above, becoming glabrous later. Flowers white suffused with pink towards the centre, scarcely 1⁄2 in. diameter, produced usually singly, occasionally in pairs, on short lateral twigs; calyx almost glabrous. Fruit 1⁄2 in. long, scarcely so wide, broadest towards the top, tapering to a short stalk, bright scarlet-red.
Native of the Himalaya; introduced in 1825. In the beauty of its fruits this is the best of the dwarfer cotoneasters. They are not only among the largest and brightest coloured; they are usually very abundant, and remain on the plants throughout the winter until February or March. Whilst birds are quite keen for the fruits of C. frigidus at the first touch of cold, for some reason they leave those of this species alone. Although scarcely a true evergreen, it retains its leaves very late, especially in mild winters – often until March – and it rarely becomes quite bare. In mode of growth it bears a distinct resemblance to C. horizontalis, but it is not so low and flat as that quite deciduous species, its fruits are larger, and its calyx less downy. A group of a dozen plants makes a most pleasing winter picture.
This species is treated by some authorities under the name C. nitidus Jacques, which, as an earlier name, would have precedence over C. distichus if it could be established with certainty that it refers to the species described here. See also C. prostratus.
var. parvifolius Yü – Leaves smaller than in the type, to about 1⁄3 in. or a little more long; branches spreading horizontally. This may be in cultivation from KW 6788, or from Forrest’s seed.
var. tongolensis Schneid. – Leaves thinly woolly above and densely brown-woolly beneath. This variety was described by Schneider from a specimen collected by Père Soulié in E. Tibet and was later found by Wilson in the vicinity of Kangting (Tatsien-lu) in W. Szechwan.
var. verruculosus (Diels) Yü C. verruculosus Diels – Branches densely warted; stipules more persistent than in the type.