A beautiful shrub to small tree with a straggling, spreading crown.
Leaves are opposite, simple, egg-shaped, 3–5 inches long, dark green, with slightly wavy edges.
Bark is dark gray to brown with thin, squarish plates.
Twigs are flexible, slender, reddish-gray to purplish, or greenish with red dots, hairy, with flower buds terminal. Leaf buds are compressed and oval.
Flowers are small, in clusters of 25–30, surrounded by 4 large, white (sometimes pink) petal-like bracts, and appear in early spring before the leaves. Bracts are 1¼–2½ inches long and are notched at the tip.
Fruits are scarlet, egg-shaped berries (drupes), ½ inch long, in clusters of 2–6, appearing August–November.