(Plant Identification for everyone)

Hoary Manzanita (Arctostaphylos canescens)

Hoary Manzanitas often look paler than plants around them, because of their abundant white hair (thus the name, Hoary).  This hair also makes the leaves feel softer than many other manzanitas. 


Hoary Manzanitas have tiny, fuzzy leaves (bracts), at the base of their flower growths.  These tips of the outer bracts often recurve back towards the stem.


Hoary Manzanitas don’t grow from a burl, as Eastwood Manzanitas do, which is very helpful when trying to decide which of the two manzanitas you’re looking at.  Just feel down the stem, below the ground, to see if you encounter a hard burl.


In Marin County, Hoary Manzanita is an uncommon shrub, generally found on south-facing sandstone slopes above 1000 feet, such as near the top of Mount Tamalpais and Pine Mountain.  [California Distribution Map]













Green leaves all year long

White/pink flowers










Field ID Tips

·  No burl, so branches do not all grow out of a single point.

·  Leaves are hairy, but softer  and less brittle than  Eastwood.

·  Hairs, stems and leaves do not have glands, and so do not ooze sap, and often appear paler than Eastwood.

·  Behind the flowers are small, hairy, pale leaves (bracts) that often recurve away from the stem.


Arctostaphylos canescens 4_Hoary Manzanita_Matt Davis Trail_1991-01-05__WF

Here is a pre-flower growth.  You can see the smaller leaves (bracts) that recurve away from the stem.


Arctostaphylos canescens 3_Hoary Manzanita_Verna Dunshee Trail North End_1994-02-20__WF

Pink and white flowers.


Arctostaphylos canescens_Hoary Manzanita 2__JB--__JB

Fruit and leaves are covered in soft,
pale hair.





Manzanitas of Marin


Arctostaphylos canescens_Hoary Manzanita 5__JB--__JB

Closeup of Hairy Manzanita leaves and pre-flower growth (nascent inflorescence).  You can see how the soft hairs give it a pale color.  Nacent inflorescenses can be found the majority of the year, although blooms are generally restricted to January – April.


Arctostaphylos canescens 4_Hoary Manzanita_Verna Dunshee Trail North End_1994-02-20__WF--__WF

Here is a glorious Hoary Manzanita, paler than surrounding plants, full of white/pink flowers.



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Last Updated 10/19/2014 by BHS.


Note to botanists – this page uses common vocabulary, sacrificing more precise scientific terms in the interest of general communication.  We hope the loss of precision in wording is, to some extent, made up for by photographs showing key identification points.


Note to non-botanists – Here are some terms you might be interested in:

·         Burl – In manzanitas, a burl is the top of the root structure, generally above ground although it can be covered on steep hills.  Feel the base of the stem to see if you encounter wood, or just ground.

·         Bract – Before a Manzanita flowers, it develops a distinctive pre-flower shape.  In Marin, these nascent inflorescences may look like small leaves, brown scales, or red bumps.  For Hoary Manzanita, the bract looks like tiny fuzzy leaves, that often recurve away from the stem.

·         Nascent inflorescense – I love this term, because it sounds so fancy.  Nascent means beginning, or not yet mature, and inflorescence means flower structure.  In Manzanitas, nascent inflorescences are often vary by species and last most of the year, including before and after the flowering time.