(Plant Identification for everyone)

Tamalpais Manzanita (Arctostaphylos montana)

Tamalpais Manzanita is often a low shrub, under 2 feet tall, although a less common variation grows to 8 feet.  It has a bushy, branching structure covered with leaves – you often have to pull it apart to see the branches.  The smallish leaves have very short hairs, and feel smooth when rubbed between your fingers. 


You’ll only find Tamalpais Manzanita on high serpentine slopes.  It is largely restricted to Marin County.  In some exposed serpentine areas on San Geronimo Ridge Road, Sargent Cypress and Tamalpais Manzanita are the dominant plants.  [California Distribution Map]















Green leaves all year long

White/pink flowers










Field ID Tips

·  Blooms Feb – April.

·  Most often a low shrub, under 2 feet tall, although a second form can grow to 8 feet.

·  Leaves are smaller than Eastwood. 

·  Leaves have very short hairs and feel smooth when rubbed between your fingers.

·  Flowers connect to separate spots on the stem.

·  Notice the brown scales (bracts) at the base of the flower stems.  Other Manzanitas have leaves or bumps here.

·  Bushy, branching structure is covered with leaves and flowers – you often have to pull them apart to see all the branches.

·  Fruit is red and hairless


Arctostaphylos montana ssp. montana_Mount Tamalpais Manzanita_San Geronimo Ridge_1992-03-09__WF--__WF

Smooth leaves and brown

scales behind flowers.


Arctostaphylos hookeri ssp montana_Tamalpais Manzanita 3__DLS--__DLS

Pink/white flowers hang down.


Arctostaphylos montana ssp. montana_Mt. Tamalpais Manzanita_Matt Davis Trail_1983-10-16__WF--__WF

Fruit is red and hairless





Manzanitas of Marin


Arctostaphylos montana_Tamalpais Manzanita_Below Mountain Theater_2014-02-10__BHS.JPG-2-2014-03-13 Railroad Grade

Notice 1) brown scales at base of flowers, 2) flowers attach individually to the stem, 3) short hairs on stem and leaves.


Arctostaphylos montana_Tamalpais Manzanita 6__JB-__JB

Classic Tamalpais Manzanita look – low to the ground.



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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:

·         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.  Although the flower may only bloom a few months, these pre-flower areas can be found most of the year.

·         Serpentine – greenish rock that has an unusual chemistry that inhibits the growth of most plants.  In Marin County, slow-growing Tamalpais Manzanita and Sargent Cypress do well on serpentine-derived soils.