A small- to medium-sized evergreen tree or shrub, with short, crooked branches and a rounded or pyramidal crown.
Leaves alternate, simple, thick, leathery, elliptical, 1 l/2 to 3 inches long; wavy-edged with large, sharp, spine-tipped teeth; upper surface dark green, dull, smooth; lower surface paler green, smooth to somewhat hairy.
Bark is thin, brown to grayish-brown, with warty projections.
Twigs stout, green to light brown or gray, covered with fine, rust-colored hairs when young, smooth later; pores small.
Flowers: May–June, in short-stalked clusters, male and female flowers on separate plants or sometimes on the same plant; petals 4, white. Male flowers in clusters of 3–9; female flowers single or in groups of 2–3.
Fruits in October; bright red-orange berries, 1/4 inch in diameter; often remaining on tree over winter.