It is a deciduous tree growing to 4–10 m tall. The bark on young trees is very distinct, smooth, glossy bronze-yellow, but becoming fissured and dull dark grey-brown with age. The leaves are alternate, ovate, 4–8 cm long and 2.8–5 cm broad, with a pubescent 1–1.5 cm petiole, and an entire or very finely serrated margin; they are dark green above, slightly paler and pubescent on the veins below. The flowers produced on erect spikes 5–7 cm long, each flower 8–10 mm diameter, with five white petals. The fruit is a small cherry-like drupe 5–7 mm diameter, green at first, turning first red then dark purple or black at maturity. Flowering is in mid spring, with the fruit ripe in early summer to early autumn.