This is a large shrub or small tree up to 25' tall, usually with a single trunk and a flat-topped crown. The crown has abundant twigs and spreading branches. The short trunk is up to ¾' across; its bark is gray, rough, and scaly. Usually there are branched thorns up to 4" long on the trunk. Branch bark is gray, slightly rough, and thorny. Twigs are yellowish brown, reddish brown, or gray; they are also glabrous and white-dotted from small lenticels. Young shoots are light green, terete, glabrous, and white-dotted from small lenticels. Both the twigs and young shoots produce unbranched thorns up to 4" long that are either straight or slightly curved. Alternate leaves occur along the twigs and shoots. Individual leaves are 1¼-3" long and about one-third as much across; they are oblanceolate or broadly elliptic (usually the former) and finely serrated along their outer margins. Leaf bases are narrowly wedge-shaped, while their tips are usually rounded to nearly truncate. The leathery leaves are pale green to dark green above (becoming more dark with age), and pale green with reticulated venation below; both the upper and lower sides are glabrous. The petioles are up to ½" long, light green, and glabrous. Corymbs (flat-headed panicles) of flowers about 2-3" across are produced from some of the leaf axils. The branching peduncle and pedicels of the corymbs are light green and glabrous. Each flower is up to ½" across, consisting of 5 white spreading petals, a short green calyx with 5 teeth, 10 stamens (rarely up to 20) with either pale yellow or pink anthers, and a pistil with 2-3 styles. The calyx is glabrous and its teeth are linear-lanceolate with smooth margins. The blooming period occurs from late spring to early summer, lasting about 7-10 days. The flowers have an unpleasant scent. Fertile flowers are replaced by globoid pomes up to ½" across that become red at maturity. Each pome contains 1-3 seeds; its flesh is somewhat dry and bitter. The pomes often persist into the winter. The deciduous leaves turn red or yellow during autumn.