This native shrub is 3-9' tall (rarely taller), developing multiple ascending stems from the ground. The basal stems branch outward toward along the upper portion of each shrub. The mature stems become woody; their bark is smooth, dark red, hairless, and shiny (less often it is yellow or brown). The bark is often covered with numerous white lenticels (air pores). Pairs of opposite leaves develop along the new growth of the stems. The leaf blades are 2-4' long and 1-3' across; they are ovate-lanceolate to ovate in shape and smooth along their margins. The upper surfaces of the leaf blades are medium green and hairless, while their lower surfaces are pale green. Depending on the local ecotype or variety, fine pubescence is sometimes present along the lower surfaces of the leaf blades. Flat-headed panicles (or cymes) of white flowers occur among the leaves. These panicles span about 2-3' across. Individual flowers are ¼' across, consisting of a small green calyx with 4 narrow teeth, 4 white petals, 4 stamens, and a pistil with a single style. The petals are narrowly lanceolate and spread outward from the center of each flower. The blooming period occurs from late spring to early summer and sometimes later in the year. The flowers are fragrant. After the blooming period, the flowers are replaced by globoid drupes (one-seeded berries) up to 1/3' across that become white at maturity. Each fleshy drupe contains a single large seed. The drupes are mildly bitter and sour. The woody root system is branching and shallow. Vegetative offsets are often produced from either underground runners or above ground stolons, resulting in colonies of shrubs.