This evergreen tree is found cultivated in Europe, very rarely wild. It does well in rich, moist, well-drained soils. Its small, white, fragrant flowers are evident from May to June. The flowers are followed by conical, dark purple fruit.
The plant has been grown in England since Elizabethan times and an extract of the plant was utilized as a bactericide (killing bacteria) and fungicide (killing fungus). The fruit is edible , but unless cooked are not very tasty. They are usually boiled with sugar added to make a jelly or syrup. Birds only eat it when it is fully ripe!
The fruit should be fully ripe when harvested (full blackness), usually this occurs by October. The fruit should then be cooked with the seeds carefully removed. All attempts to keep them from being cracked should be utilized. The leaves and seeds contain Prussic acid (Cyanide) and are therefore poisonous.
A green dye can be gotten from the leaves; with a dark grey to green dye being obtained from the fruit.