Ceanothus velutinus is a shrub in the buckthorn family, Rhamnaceae, known by the common names Red Root, Snowbrush Ceanothus and Tobacco Brush. It is native to western North America from British Columbia to California to Colorado, where it grows in several habitat types including coniferous forest, chaparral, and various types of woodland. It grows up to 4 meters tall but generally remains under three, and forms colonies of individuals which tangle together to form nearly impenetrable thickets. The aromatic evergreen leaves are alternately arranged, each up to 8 centimeters long. The leaves are oval in shape with minute glandular teeth along the edges, and shiny green and hairless on the top surface. The plentiful inflorescences are long clusters of white flowers. The fruit is a three-lobed capsule a few millimeters long which snaps open explosively to expel the three seeds onto the soil, where they may remain in a buried seed bank for well over 200 years before sprouting.The seed is coated in a very hard outer layer that must be scarified, generally by wildfire, before it can germinate. Like most other Ceanothus, this species fixes nitrogen via actinomycetes on its roots.
Some Plateau Indian tribes drank a boil of this plant to induce sweating as a treatment for colds, fevers, and influenza. Leaves were also used when rinsing to help prevent dandruff.