Shrub to 5 m tall, branches arching, rooting at tips, colonial; roots associated with vesicular-arbuscular endomycorrhizal fungi (Berliner and Torrey 1989); bark dark; twigs hairless, winter buds pointed, scales 2-3 pairs, lowest pair almost 1/2 as long as bud (Harlow 1946).
Leaves opposite, sharp toothed, veins fan-like, impressed; leaves expand mid-late May; winter plant leafless 177 days (Britton 1874). Fall color red-purple if growing in sufficient sunlight.
Flowers cream-white small, inflorescence broad, flat about 14 cm wide, May-June.
Fruit fleshy, dark blue, to 1 cm, 1-seeded, Aug.-Sept. Seed load 42%. Pulp nutrients: water 56%, lipid 31%, protein 3%, CHO 16% (White 1989). High lipid. Fruit eaten by migrating songbirds, gamebirds and mammals, including bear, raccoons, foxes and skunks (Wilson 1993). Dispersal to and establishment in new sites in successional forest, contiguous to old regrowth stands has been calculated at a rate of 1.67 m/yr (Matlack 1994).
Wetland status: FAC.
Frequency in NYC: Very common
Habitat: Wet-moist soil, open or wooded areas. Often forming dense thickets along stream banks or in swamp forests. Also freshwater tidal and nontidal marshes, pond edges, swamp forest gaps soil pH 3.9-7 (Greller et al. 1990; Hightshoe 1988; Gargiullo unpublished data). Tolerant of flooding or saturated soil up to 25% growing season; drought. Moderately tolerant of shade; salt; soil compaction. Tolerates fill moist soils (Hightshoe 1988).
Notes: Twigs browsed by rabbits, deer, squirrels (Martin et al. 1951). Leaves eaten by adults and larvae of the viburnum leaf beetle (Pyrrhalta viburni) introduced from Asia and Europe (USDA, NRCS 2010).