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A deciduous shrub rarely more than 4 ft high in this country, but said to become a small tree 25 to 30 ft high in the southern United State; branchlets covered with a fine reddish down. Leaves pinnate, composed of nine to fifteen (occasionally more) leaflets, the common stalk being winged on both sides between the leaflets, which are stalkless (or the basal ones shortly stalked), lanceolate, 2 to 31⁄2 in. long, rarely toothed, dark glossy green above, paler and downy beneath, the lower leaflets the smallest. Flowers greenish yellow, unisexual, produced in crowded pyramidal panicles 4 to 6 in. long, 3 to 4 in. wide, the female panicle normally the smaller. Fruits bright red, hairy.
Widely spread in eastern N. America, this species varies considerably in a wild state. The form cultivated in Britain is, no doubt, the shrubby northern one. American writers describe it as being of singular beauty, its foliage dying off a rich reddish purple which, with the scarlet fruits of the female tree, gives a charming combination of colour. It flowers in July and August. Introduced to England and cultivated in the Fulham Palace grounds in 1688. Distinct because of its entire leaflets and winged stalk.