It is a deciduous shrub growing to 8 m tall, with stems up to 10 cm diameter. The bark is gray, smooth, and lightly fissured. The twigs are dark purplish-brown, slender, sometimes four-angled or slightly winged. The leaves are opposite, elliptical, 8.5–11.3 cm long and 3.2–5.5 cm broad, abruptly long pointed at the tip, and with a finely serrated margin; they are green above, paler and often with fine hairs beneath, and turn bright red in the fall. The flowers are bisexual, 10–12 mm diameter, with four greenish sepals, four brown-purple petals and four stamens; they are produced in small axillary cymes. The fruit is a smooth reddish to pink four-lobed (sometimes one or more of the lobes abort) capsule, up to 17 mm diameter, each lobe containing a single seed, orange with a fleshy red aril.
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