Low, compact evergreen shrub to 1 m or so tall. Leaves thick, ovate to obovate, 5-15 cm long with 3 prominent longitudinal veins, the tip sometimes with a few teeth, hairless except for vein tufts, dark green above, pale below. Flowers in broad, flat-topped clusters 5-8 cm wide. Fruits blue, ovoid, about 5 mm long.
Male and female plants must be grown together to produce the attractive blue fruits although the plants may not be strictly dioecious.
V. japonicum (Thunb.) Spreng. from Japan is a larger shrub to 2 m tall. It does not have the distinctive 3 longitudinal veins but can be easily distinguished from all other species by the numerous small black dots on the lower leaf surface.
V. odoratissimum Ker Gawl. from India, SE Asia, Japan and nearby regions is rather similar to V. japonica but the leaves are larger, thicker and very glossy above; it is sometimes seen in parks as the small tree
V. odoratissimum var. awabuki (C. Koch) Zab., which has flowers in panicles and fruits that are red at first before becoming black. There has been some confusion between this species and V. tinus 'Lucidum', which has flowers in cymes and black fruits.
Source: (2002). Caprifoliaceae. In: . Horticultural Flora of South-eastern Australia. Volume 4. Flowering plants. Dicotyledons. Part 3. The identification of garden and cultivated plants. University of New South Wales Press.