This shrub or small tree grows to a height of 8 to 10 metres. Its crown is wide-spreading with many branches. The bark is thin, dark brown to grey-brown. The pale green leaves are pointed oval with prominent veins and the bright yellow flowers grow in tight clusters. The individual flowers have four tiny pointed petals. The dark red hanging fruits are edible.
The Cornelian cherry is distributed throughout lowland central Europe in open woods and scrub. It has been spread widely because its fruits are edible. It grows on chalk and limestone and is often planted in gardens.