Habit: a classic montane chaparral plant; green manzanita is an evergreen shrub, treasured for its remarkable branching pattern and clean, glossy foliage. It grows 3 to 10 feet tall and has smooth, brown bark, that peels off with age. It has bright green, ovate to elliptical leaves, 1 to 2 inches long. Both surfaces of the leaves are smooth and lustrous. Nodding terminal bunches of fragrant, light pink, urn-shaped flowers bloom from late spring to early summer. Clusters of small, round, brownish to black fruits resemble miniature apples, hence the name manzanita, which means “small apples” in Spanish.
Ecology: Arctostaphylos patula is found in open coniferous forests, montane chaparral and burned sites, as well as hot and sunny lava flats and buttes at low to high elevations (2,500 to 6,000 feet). It grows mostly east of the Cascades, from Southern California to South-central Washington, but can also be found in the Rocky Mountains, mainly in the state of Utah.
Growing conditions: it enjoys full sun and well-drained soils. It can survive long periods of drought, yet new shoots need moisture to be able to grow. This species is more tolerant of cold than other manzanitas.
Green manzanitas make a great focal point in a rock garden, in between boulders and other smaller drought-tolerant plants. Its moderate growth, smooth, sculpted red-brown branches and leathery shiny foliage have allowed it to gain a special regard among gardeners and landscapers. Beyond its ornamental properties, manzanitas provide habitat and nutrition for many animals in the wild. Apart from mule deer, which graze on the leaves, fruits and seeds are a preferred food source for many animals.
Most plants within the manzanita genus have very resilient seeds, which are enclosed in a hard shell and can survive decades in the soil waiting for the proper conditions to germinate. Additionally, this shrub can reproduce by branch layering and from underground burl sprouts after a wild fire. There are around 90 species of manzanitas in the wild, most of them native to North America.