This small deciduous shrub is ½-2' tall with spreading leafy branches. The trunk and branches of older shrubs are often woody with shredded bark, while young shoots and twigs are green to brownish red, terete, and finely warty. Sometimes the twigs and shoots are slightly short-pubescent. Alternate leaves along the twigs and shoots are ¾-1½" long and about ¼-¾" across; they are elliptic in shape and very finely serrated along their margins. Both the upper and lower surfaces of the leaves are medium to dark green and glabrous (or nearly so). The short petioles are up to 1/8" (3 mm.) in length. Small clusters of nodding flowers develop from the preceding year's twigs. Each flower is about ¼" long and a little less across, consisting of a short green calyx with 5 teeth, a short-tubular corolla that is white or pinkish white, 10 inserted stamens, and an inferior ovary with a single style. The corolla is slightly indented along its upper rim, where 5 tiny lobes occur that are recurved. The peduncle and pedicels of the clustered flowers are light green to reddish brown and glabrous. The blooming period occurs from late spring to early summer for about 3 weeks. Afterwards, fertile flowers are replaced by globoid berries up to 1/3" (8 mm.) across that become dark blue with a whitish bloom at maturity. At this time, the fleshy interior of each berry is juicy and sweet and it typically contains 10-15 tiny seeds. The root system is usually shallow and spreading, although a taproot may develop on an older shrub. Vegetative colonies are produced from underground runners. The deciduous leaves often become red or burgundy during the the autumn.
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