An evergreen shrub 8 to 10 ft high, with slender, gracefully arching branches, which the first year are covered with a dense, pale brown wool. Leaves oval, tapering towards both ends, from 3⁄4 to 11⁄4 in. long, about half as wide, pointed; upper surface rather hairy when young, lustrous green later, lower surface covered with a thick, whitish, afterwards pale brown felt; stalk 1⁄8 in. or less long. Flowers borne in corymbs of five to fifteen flowers terminating short, lateral, leafy twigs; petals erect, white, touched with rose on the outside; calyx felted like the under-surface of the leaves. Fruit oblong, 1⁄4 to 1⁄3 in. long; orange-scarlet; nutlets usually three. Bot. Mag., t. 8571.
Native of Tibet and W. China; first raised in France about 1895, by Maurice de Vilmorin, from seed sent by the Abbé Soulié. It is a shrub of very elegant growth, whose fruits are freely borne, but lose in brilliancy by the greyish down, more or less dense, which covers them. It was at first confused with C. pannosus but the two species belong, in fact, to different subdivisions of the genus, so the resemblance is really superficial. The distinguishing characters may be defined as follows: leaves rather longer than in pannosus, but with stalks scarcely half as long, the upper surface somewhat lustrous; flowers not so numerous in each cluster, petals erect and rose-tinted; fruits larger, longer, and not of so deep a red. It flowers in May, and the fruit is ripe in October.
var. cinerascens Rehd. – Leaves larger, up to 11⁄2 in. long, covered with a loose grey felt.
var. sternianus Turrill C. wardii Hort., not W. W. Sm. – This variety differs from the type mainly in the shape of the fruit, which is obovoid to almost globose, not oblong. It was introduced by Farrer from Burma in 1919 and long grown in gardens as “C. franchetii” or, more commonly, as “C. wardii”. It is figured in Bot. Mag., n.s., t. 130, and discussed by the late Dr Turrill in the accompanying note. This variety is one of the finest of the taller cotoneasters, being very hardy and growing rapidly to a height of 6 ft or more. The older leaves frequently die off into bright orange shades just at the time that the fruits are in high colour. It was given the Award of Garden Merit in 1953.
C. wardii W. W. Sm. – A native of S.E. Tibet, found by Kingdon Ward in 1913. It is perhaps not in cultivation, the plants grown as wardii being for the most part C. franchetii var. sternianus, from which it differs in its longer flowering branchlets, thinner leaves and in certain floral characters.