This shrub is 4-18' tall, branching occasionally. The base of a mature shrub is woody with reddish brown bark and small white lenticels. Young branches are light green to reddish green, and more or less terete; they are initially sparsely to moderately pubescent, but become glabrous with age. The large spongy pith of the branches is brown. Opposite compound leaves occur along young branches; these leaves are 6-14" long and odd-pinnate with 5 or 7 leaflets. The petiole and rachis (central stalk) of the compound leaf are light green to reddish green and sparsely to moderately pubescent. Individual leaflets are 2-4" long and 1-2" across; they are oblong-lanceolate to oblong-ovate in shape and serrated along their margins. The upper surface of the leaflets is medium to dark green and glabrous, while the lower surface is pale green and glabrous to sparsely pubescent. Usually there is some pubescent along the central vein on the lower side. The petiolules (petioles at the bases of the leaflets) are light green to purple and short. Occasionally, panicles of whitish flowers are produced from axils of the upper leaves or the upper stems. Individual panicles are 2-4" long and 1½-2½" across; their peduncles (basal stalks) are 2-4" long. Each panicle is intricately branched with the flowers occurring in groups of 2-3; the pedicels are light green and finely pubescent. Individual flowers are about 1/8" across, consisting of a short tubular calyx that is light green with 5 deciduous lobes, a greenish white to white or cream-colored corolla with 5 strongly recurved petaloid lobes, 5 spreading stamens with white filaments and pale yellow anthers, and a pistil with 3 small stigmata. At the bud stage, the flowers are sometimes pinkish. The blooming period occurs from mid- to late spring and lasts about 3 weeks. The flowers have an unpleasant fragrance. During the late spring to mid-summer, the flowers are replaced by fleshy berries. Mature berries are about 1/8-1/6" across, globoid to subgloboid in shape, and bright red with a juicy interior. Each berry has about 3 seeds. The root system forms vegetative offsets from rhizomes.