AppearanceIt is an erect, deciduous shrub, producing a stiff, branching main stem and often several smaller shoots from a rhizome. It can spread and colonize an area to form a dense thicket. It reaches 1–2 m in maximum height. Leaves are oppositely arranged on the spreading branches. They are generally oval, differing in size and shape, and up to 5 cm long, or slightly larger on the shoots. The inflorescence is a raceme of up to 16 flowers. Each flower has a small, five-toothed calyx of sepals. The bell-shaped, rounded corolla is about 0.5 cm long and bright pink in color. It has pointed lobes at the mouth and the inside is filled with white hairs. The fruit is a fleshy white berry-like drupe about a centimeter wide which contains two seeds. The plant sometimes reproduces via seed but it is primarily vegetative, reproducing by sprouting from its spreading rhizome. Birds disperse the seeds after they eat the fruit.
UsesNative Americans used the plant as a medicine and a soap, and sometimes for food, and the wood was good for arrow shafts. In Russia, the berries are crushed in the hands and rubbed about for a soothing folk-remedy hand lotion.
This shrub is used for erosion control in riparian areas, and it is planted in ecological restoration projects on disturbed sites such as abandoned mines. Its white fruits make it popular as an ornamental plant.
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