An understory shrub or small tree, often in small, open colonies.
Leaves opposite, simple, 2¼–3 inches long, elliptical, finely toothed with the teeth pointing outward, tip slender and long-pointed; prominent network of veins; shiny green above, yellow-green with tiny black dots below.
Bark reddish-brown or gray; irregularly furrowed into squarish scaly plates, with skunklike odor.
Twigs yellow to reddish-brown when young, becoming grayish green later, covered with a white, waxy coating.
Flowers May–June, small, white, in upright, round-topped clusters 3–5 inches wide; flower stalks with reddish scales.
Fruits September–October, drooping to upright clusters of 15–30; berrylike, blue-black with a whitish coating, ½ inch long, elliptical, one-seeded.