This perennial deciduous shrub is an import from China and Japan, introduced into the United States in 1830 as an ornamental. It has escaped cultivation and become listed as invasive from Maine south to South Carolina west to Oklahoma, and north to southwest Minnesota. Birds find the multitude of red berries very enticing and spread the seed through their excrement.
The fruit is a drupe approximately 1 cm long ripening to bright red dotted with silver or brown. When ripe the fruit is juicy and edible. The drupe is pleasantly acid, and can be consumed raw or in jams, jellies, leathers, and wine. If slightly under ripe it is very astringent. Waiting until the first good freeze will sweeten these berries.
Used in medicine it has been shown to have higher levels of lycopene than tomatoes. Lycopene has been shown to be useful in reducing the risk of prostate cancer. The flowers are astringent; the seeds are used as a stimulant. Together they are used in the treatment of coughs.