A deciduous shrub or small tree 10 to 20 or even 30 ft high; branchlets stout, stiff, downy when young. Leaves oblong, narrowly oval or obovate, always tapering at the base, usually at the apex; 2 to 8 in. long, rather less than half as wide, not toothed; bright green above and downy on the midrib, paler below, and downy especially on the veins; stalks downy, 1⁄2 to 1 in. long. Flowers pure white, slightly fragrant; produced during June in very lax panicles 4 to 8 in. long; these panicles are crowded at the upper joints of the preceding year’s growths, and form a dense, mop-like mass beneath the new growths. Each branch of the panicle bears three flowers, and springs from the axil of a leaf-like bract which is occasionally 1 to 11⁄2 in. long at the base of the panicle, becoming smaller towards the end; the bracts persist to the fruiting stage. Petals four or five, each 3⁄4 to 11⁄4 in. long, 1⁄16 to 1⁄12 in. wide; calyx minute, with pointed lobes. Fruit roundish or egg-shaped, dark blue, 2⁄3 in. long, borne on pendulous stalks.
Native of the eastern United States, from Pennsylvania southward; introduced in 1736. This is one of the most beautiful and striking of N. American shrubs, and is perfectly hardy in this country. I have never seen it flower so well here, however, as in Central Europe and in the United States, where the shrub in June is almost hidden in the profusion of pendent masses of blossom. There is nothing like it among flowering shrubs except its Asiatic ally.
var. maritimus Pursh; var. pubescens Dipp. – More downy generally, but especially on the panicles.