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Cotoneasters are long lived, evergreen shrubs up to approximately 3m tall. Young shoots with pale downy hairs mature into arching red-brown stems. Leaves are shiny with soft shaggy hairs above and white-grey hairs underneath. Flowers are small, white and borne in clusters. Fruit are red berries 7-9 mm diameter, with two or three seeds per fruit.
It inhabits open scrub and coastal forest, lava flats, cliffs, forest and river margins, roadsides and track margins, grasslands, plantation forests, wastelands. A wide range of soil moisture is tolerated but it prefers free draining conditions. Salt spray, frost and semi-shade are also tolerated.
Cotoneaster tolerates grazing, damp and drought conditions, temperature fluctuations, and a range of soil types. Highly viable and long-lived seeds, combined with early maturity and the formation of dense stands means that cotoneaster outcompetes native shrub species in wide range of habitats.