A short to medium-sized tree, often forming colonies from root sprouts, with a columnar canopy, a flattened crown and contorted branches that turn upward at their ends.
Leaves alternate, simple, aromatic when crushed, 4–6 inches long, 2–4 inches wide, broadest at the middle; having 3 shapes (entire, with a 2-sided lobe, or 3-lobed), tip pointed or rounded, base tapered.
Bark aromatic, reddish-brown to gray with deep grooves and firm, long, flat-topped ridges.
Twigs moderately stout, curved upward at the tips, yellowish-green becoming greenish-brown with age; broken twigs have a spicy odor.
Flowers April–May. Male and female flowers occur on separate trees in stalked, branched clusters about 2 inches long, at the tips of twigs; flowers small, yellow, petals absent; sepals 6, spreading.
Fruits in late August–October. Berrylike, widest at the middle, about ½ inch long, dark blue, shiny, attached to a swollen stalk; stalk about 1½ inches long, red.