A shrub 3 to 5 ft high, of bushy, flat-topped habit, producing sucker growths from the base; branchlets glabrous, or somewhat downy. Leaves obovate, from 11⁄4 to 3 in. long, from 3⁄4 to 2 in. wide; usually short-pointed at the apex, always tapering at the base, finely and regularly toothed; the upper surface dark polished green and glabrous, except for dark glands on the midrib; lower surface paler, usually glabrous except when quite young, but occasionally downy throughout the season; stalk 1⁄4 in. or less long. Flowers white, 1⁄3 to 1⁄2 in. across, produced towards the end of May in corymbs of six to twelve blossoms; calyx glabrous or downy, with triangular lobes. Fruit roundish, 1⁄3 to 1⁄2 in. across, black or black-purple. Bot. Mag., t. 9052.
Native of eastern N. America, and cultivated in England probably for over two centuries. From the allied A. arbutifolia it is easily distinguished, that species having red fruit and dull leaves very woolly beneath. There is a form of A. melanocarpa which, in the more or less downy under-surface of the leaf and in the vinous red fruit approaches A. arbutifolia, but like the black-fruited, glabrous leaved type its fruits fall as soon as ripe (in September), whereas those of A. arbutifolia persist until mid-winter. A. melanocarpa flowers freely, and is a bright and pleasing shrub of neat habit.
var. elata Rehd. – A larger shrub in most respects, growing up to 10 ft high, with larger leaves of oblong-obovate shape and flowers and fruit also larger.
From the Supplement (Vol. V)
The intermediate mentioned in the second paragraph is probably one of the forms of A. prunifolia (see above). It should be added that, according to Hardin, A. melanocarpa in its pure state does not give autumn colour. So the clone 'Brilliant', which is usually considered to be an autumn colouring form of A. melanocarpa, is probably of hybrid origin.