opposite or nearly
to oval, hairless leaves, 3-7cm long, are hairless. They have finely
toothed margins and 3-4 pairs of veins
curving upwards. They are arranged in circular clusters on short
is a deciduous
shrub, occasionally reaching 10 m in height but is usually only
4-6 m high. It is almost restricted to lime-rich soils, where it
grows in woods, scrub and hedgerows.
branches bear long and short shoots. The latter are leafy and often
end in a spine.
which appear in June, have 4 small greenish sepals and petals. Male
and female flowers may occur on separate bushes.
will produce pea-sized fruits, green at first, but becoming black
when ripe. They appear from September onwards.
is one of the food plants of the caterpillars of the brimstone
butterfly (see photograph).
are purgative, but not poisonous to humans and are eaten by birds
in winter, with no apparent harmful effect.
are often attacked by a fungus, crown rust, which appears as orange