This native perennial plant is up to 8' tall, branching regularly. The stems are smooth, round, and hairless, varying from light green to brilliant purplish red. The latter color becomes more prominent as the season progresses. The rather large alternate leaves are up to 10" long and 4" across. They are broadly lanceolate or ovate, with smooth margins, and prominent veins. Their color is often light green or yellowish green, particularly in sunny locations, and they have narrow petioles about ½1" long. Many of the stems terminate in an inflorescence that is elongate and cylindrical, about 3-6" long, and 1" across. It consists of a narrow raceme of numerous small flowers that are arranged all around the flowering stalk on short pedicels. These pedicels may be green, white, pink, or purplish red, depending on the stage of development for the flowers or fruits. The flowers are about ¼" across, consisting of 5 lobed white or pink sepals that flare outward, no true petals, and several green carpels folded together in the center. The shape of the carpels resembles an inverted bowl that is indented in the middle. After the flowers fade away, these carpels develop into fruits. When mature, they become dark purple and rather shiny on the surface, containing reddish purple juice. They are about ¼" across, and shaped like slightly flattened spheres. Each fruit contains 10 glossy black seeds that are smooth and lens-shaped. The root system consists of large deep taproot. When damaged, this plant exudes a rank odor.