A shrub to about 10 or 15 ft in the wild, with a close grey or brownish bark; branchlets usually downy, sometimes glabrous or almost so. Leaves of thin texture, ovate to broadly so or roundish, 2 to 41⁄2 in. long, 1 to 4 in. wide, sometimes even broader than long, shortly acuminate at the apex, rounded or slightly cordate at the base, almost glabrous above, sparsely stellate-downy beneath; veins five to eleven on each side, straight, impressed above and prominent beneath; marginal teeth usually large and triangular; petiole slender, to 1 in. long, clad with stiff down, usually without stipules. Flowers white, perfect and regular, about 1⁄6 in. wide, borne around midsummer. Corymbs up to 41⁄2 in. wide, on peduncles 11⁄2 to 21⁄2 in. long, its branches downy or Corymbs up to 41⁄2 in. wide, on peduncles 11⁄2 to 21⁄2 in. long, its branches downy or sometimes glabrous. Fruits blue-black, roundish oval, up to 3⁄8 in. long; stone with a narrow and deep groove on one side.
Native of eastern N. America, mostly south of New York; described by Linnaeus from a specimen collected in Virginia and cultivated since the 18th century.
var. deamii (Rehd.) Fern. V. pubescens var. deamii Rehd.; V. pubescens var. indianense Rehd. – Leaves glabrous or almost so. Petioles usually with a pair of narrow stipules at the base. Of more western distribution than typical V. dentatum.
var. pubescens Ait. V. pubescens (Ait.) Pursh; V. nervosum Britt. – Branchlets and undersides of leaves densely downy; leaves of thicker texture. V. dentatum ‘Longifolium’ is a cultivated form of this with leaves longer than wide (V. longifolium Lodd. ex Loud.).
V. recognitum Fern. Arrow-wood. V. dentatum of many authors, not L.; V. dentatum var. lucidum Ait., not V. lucidum Mill. – Very closely allied to the preceding, but essentially glabrous. Stones of fruits, according to Fernald, globose-ovoid, with a shallow furrow. It is of more northern distribution than V. dentatum. Introduced in the 18th century.
None of the species and varieties in this complex group are of much value in British gardens and now rarely seen outside collections. The young shoots that spring from the base are straight and erect, and it was their use by the Indians as arrows that gave rise to the popular name.