Erect to spreading much-branched evergreen shrubs to small trees, 1-20 m tall, to 49 cm dbh; bark peeling or shredding, gray, tan, reddish-brown or brown; young twigs glabrous and sometimes glaucous or glandular hirsute to ferrutinously tomentose, the trichomes stalked, swollen-headed, and glandular or eglandular and hyaline. Leaves coriaceous to subcoriaceous, lanceolate to elliptic, ovate or obovate, plane or revolute, 4.8-12.4 x 1-4.6 cm, basally cuneate, apically obtuse to acute, marginally entire, sometimes undulate, rarely with a few serrations, upper surface glabrous or with scattered trichomes, lower surface glabrous or with ferrutinous eglandular tomentum to nearly wooly, midrib glabrous or with indumentum, the trichomes stalked, swollen-headed and glandular, or eglandular; petioles 4-20 mm long, glabrous and sometimes glaucous or with indumentum as on young twigs. Inflorescences densely paniculate, 3.5-13.3(-18.2) cm long, rachis, pedicels, bracts, bracteoles and calyx glabrous or tomentose to glandular hirsute, often with stalked swollen-headed glandular trichomes; floral bracts lanceolate, nearly plane to navicular or carinate, acuminate, 2.5-9.8 x 1.1-2 mm, ciliate or not; pedicels 5-8 mm long; bracteoles basal to distal, 1.7-4.1 mm long, ciliate or not. Flowers: calyx lobes triangular to ovate-triangular, 1.7-2.5 x 1.4-2.1 mm, acute to acuminate, glabrous or pubescent, trichomes glandular or not, often ciliate; corollas greenish-white to cream, pale yellow, or white, sometimes suffused with pink, 5.7-7.8 x 3.3-6.2 mm, glabrous or pubescent, the lobes 0.9-1.7 x 1.4-2.3 mm; stamens 2.6-3.2 mm long; filaments 2.4-3.1 mm long, villous; anthers 1.1-1.5 x 0.6-0.9 mm, the spurs 0.4-1 mm long; ovary glabrous or pubescent; style 2.5-4.3 mm long, glabrous. Fruit 5-7 mm in diam., red when immature, dark purple to black at maturity; seeds 2.1-2.8 x 1.1-1.5 mm, surface reticulate.
Distribution. Central Chiapas (Mexico) through
Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and W Panama, in dry to moist
or Pinus forests to other moist montane or cloud forests, and on
the summits of the higher volcanoes of Central America, at 1350 to 3800
m. Flowering and fruiting throughout the year.
Key to Subspecies of Comarostaphylis arbutoides
1. Leaves ferruginously tomentose or tomentulose below; twigs,
petioles, and calyx lobes pubescent; Chiapas to Panama
................................................................. subsp. arbutoides
1. Leaves glabrous below; twigs, petioles, and calyx lobes glabrous;
endemic to Costa Rica ................................ subsp. costaricensis
Comarostaphylis arbutoides Lindley subsp. arbutoides
Comarostaphylis chiriquensis Camp, Ann. Missouri Bot. Gard. 26: 297. 1939. Type. Panama. Chiriquí: Loma Larga to summit, Volcán de Chiriquí, 2500-3380 m, 4-6 Jul 1938 (fl), Woodson et al. 1033 (holotype: NY, photo, Diggs neg. 2; isotypes: A, MO, NY, US).
Comarostaphylis sleumeri Suessenguth, Bot. Jahrb. Syst. 72: 282. 1942. Type. Costa Rica. Intersection of Limón, Puntarenas and San José Provs.: Chirripó Grande, 3750 m, 28 Apr 1932 (fl, fr), Kupper 1173 (lectotype, designated by Diggs (1995): M, photo, DUKE).Shrubs or trees to 20 m; young twigs and petioles glandular hirsute to ferruginously tomentose, trichomes stalked, swollen-headed, and glandular or eglandular and hyaline. Leaves usually with dense ferruginous tomentum below, midrib pubescent, trichomes often glandular. Inflorescences: rachis, pedicels, bracts, bracteoles and calyces tomentose to glandular hirsute, often with stalked, swollen-headed glandular trichomes. Flowers: calyx lobes pubescent, trichomes glandular or not; corollas glabrous to tomentose; ovary pubescent or more raely glabrous.
Distribution. Central highlands of Chiapas,
Mexico to western Panama, in dry oak-pine to cloud forests and páramo,
at elevations from ca. 1350 to 3800 m. Flowering and fruiting throughout
Comarostaphylis arbutoides Lindley subsp. costaricensis (Small) Diggs, Brittonia 38: 344. 1986. Comarostaphylis costaricensis Small, N. Amer. Fl. 29: 89. 1914. Arctostaphylos costaricensis (Small) Standley, Publ. Field Mus. Nat. Hist., Bot. Ser. 4: 320. 1929. Arctostaphylos arbutoides var. costaricensis (Small) Wilbur & Luteyn, Ann. Missouri Bot. Gard. 65: 36. 1978. Type. Costa Rica. Cartago: Volcán Irazú, 25 Jun 1874 (bud, fl, im fr), Kuntze 2361 (holotype: NY, photo, Diggs neg. 5; isotype: US).
Shrubs or small trees to 5 m; young twigs and petioles glabrous, often glaucous. Leaves glabrous below. Inflorescences glabrous or with slight pubescence. Flowers: calyx lobes, corollas, and ovary glabrous.
Distribution. Endemic to the Cordillera Central
of Costa Rica, known only from the type locality, Volcán Irazú
(Cartago Province), and two other sites (Palmira, Alajuela Province and
Volcán Barba, Heredia Province), at ca. 2500-3430 m.
It is an important component of the ericaceous scrub on the crater rim
of Volcán Irazú and is abundant in the otherwise nearly barren
areas of volcanic ash. Flowering and fruiting throughout the year.