Pondberry is a colony-forming shrub growing in low, wet woods. Spreads via runners.
Leaves are simple, alternate, drooping; aromatic when crushed; 2–6 inches long, oval with tapering, pointed tip, narrowing toward the base, untoothed, thin, and rather translucent. Both surfaces dark green; lower surface slightly hairy.
Bark is brown to dark gray, aromatic when bruised.
Twigs are slender, reddish-brown to gray, hairy at first, smooth later.
Flowers March–April, before the leaves; pale yellow, fragrant, about ¼ inch wide, in clusters of 4–6 along the stem. Male and female flowers on separate plants; petals absent.
Fruits September–October, solitary or in small clusters; somewhat elongated, about ¼–½ inch long, bright red, spicy, 1-seeded.
Similar species: Spicebush is much more common, living in damp woods and in cultivation; its leaves do not droop and are bright green above and whitish below; the twigs often bear leaves of two sizes, with much smaller leaves at the base of larger ones.