A deciduous shrub said to be up to 8 ft high, with glabrous, slender shoots often produced in tiers of three or four. Leaves oval to obovate, tapered at the base, the apex rounded except for a minute tip (mucro), 1 to 11⁄2 in. long, 1⁄2 to 7⁄8 in. wide, with scattered bristles above and some on the midrib beneath; stalk 3⁄16in. or less long. Flowers nodding, produced in May and June at the end of the previous year’s twigs in umbel-like clusters of four to eight. Corolla red, bell-shaped, 1⁄2 in. long, 1⁄4 in. wide, with four shallow, minutely ciliate lobes. Stamens very hairy, in number twice as many as the corolla-lobes. Calyx four- or five-lobed; lobes ovate-oblong, 1⁄6 in. long, glandular-ciliate. Flower-stalk 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 in. long, very slender, glandular-bristly. Ovary with eglandular hairs.
Native of Japan, where, according to Ohwi, it is confined to the Island of Kyushu; named in 1867 by Maximowicz; introduced about 1914. It is the prettiest and brightest coloured of the menziesias, distinguished from all the preceding species by its bell-shaped, bright red corolla, whose lobes are edged with minute hairs, and its round-ended mucronate leaves. But most of the plants distributed as M. purpurea are M. ciliicalyx var. purpurea.
The characters by which Ohwi (Flora of Japan (1965), p. 695-696) distinguishes this species from M. ciliicalyx are: ovary with eglandular hairs; corolla-lobes four, glandular-ciliate. A further distinction appears to be that in M. purpurea the corollas (as shown in Maximowicz’s Rhododendreae Asiae Orientalis, Plate 1) are not at all constricted at the mouth as they are, though slightly, in M. ciliicalyx; they are also, according to Maximowicz’s original description, ‘thinly membranaceous’ in texture.