This native shrub is 3-8' tall, erect, and abundantly branched. The bark of older branches is gray or gray-brown and slightly roughened from the abundant small lenticels. Young stems are pale green, yellowish green, or red; they are devoid of hairs. Opposite leaves up to 4" long and 1½" across occur at intervals along these stems; they are lanceolate to ovate and smooth along their margins. The upper leaf surfaces are medium green, yellowish green, or reddish green, while their lower surfaces are pale green; sparse appressed hairs are sometimes present on both the upper and lower leaf surfaces. Leaf venation is pinnate; there are typically 3-4 curved lateral veins on either side of the central vein on each leaf. The leaf bases are rounded to wedge-shaped (usually the latter), while their tips are long and slender. The slender petioles are up to ¾" long. Occasionally, dome-shaped panicles of flowers are produced; they are about 1½2½" across and about as tall. Individual flowers are about ¼" across, consisting of a short calyx with 4 small teeth, 4 white lanceolate petals, 4 stamens with pale yellow anthers, and a central pistil. The branches of the panicle are hairless and cream-colored when the flowers are produced; later they become bright red when the fruit matures. The blooming period occurs from late spring to mid-summer and lasts about 3 weeks. The flowers are replaced by globoid drupes about ¼" across that become white at maturity. Each fleshy drupe contains 1-2 furrowed seeds. The root system can produce clonal offsets from underground runners; this can result in a thicket of small shrubs.