A suckering large shrub or small tree. The clusters of pendant white flowers give rise to fruits that are first red, then dark purple when fully ripe. Although humans consider the fruits bitter, hence the common name, a wide variety of birds find them irresistible. The flowers are an invaluable nectar source for beneficial insects. Tiger Swallowtail, Spring Azure, White Admiral and Coral Hairstreak butterflies use the species as a host plant. Overall, one of the best plants for a wildlife hedgerow.