The shrub or tree, to 25 ft (7.5 m) high, has slender, spreading branches and resinous aromatic foliage. The opposite leaves, bronze when young, are deep green and glossy when mature; turn red in cold, dry winter weather. They are ovate to ovate-lanceolate, blunt- to sharp-pointed, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 in (4-6.25 cm) long.
Long-stalked flowers, borne singly or as many as 4 together in the leaf axils, have 4 delicate, recurved, white petals and a tuft of 50 to 60 prominent white stamens with pale-yellow anthers. The 7- to 8-ribbed fruit, oblate, 3/4 to 1 1/2 in (2-4 cm) wide, turns from green to orange as it develops and, when mature, bright-red to deep-scarlet or dark, purplish maroon ("black") when fully ripe. The skin is thin, the flesh orange-red, melting and very juicy; acid to sweet, with a touch of resin and slight bitterness. There may be 1 fairly large, round seed or 2 or 3 smaller seeds, each with a flattened side, more or less attached to the flesh by a few slender fibers.