Stems erect. Wood and pith bright yellow. Leaves frequently reddish tinged, 5-10 dm; petioles basally enlarged and clasping. Leaflets 9-81, nearly sessile, leaflet blades 4-11 1.5-3 cm, base cuneate, apex acuminate. Inflorescences with hundreds of flowers, 1-2 dm. Flowers fragrant, pedicellate; perianth segments imbricate, weakly 2-4-seriate. Berries 6-9 mm. Seeds mostly 2. 2 n = 20. Flowering spring-summer (May-early Jul); fruiting summer-fall (Sep-Dec). Old home sites; woodlands, mesic flood plains, hammocks; 0-600 m; introduced; Ala., Ark., Fla., Ga., La., N.C., S.C., Tex.; native, Asia (Japan, China, India). Nandinadomestica is commonly cultivated as an ornamental. China and Japan have been considered the possible sources of cultivated material. In the flora, seedlings are frequent in the vicinity of plantings, and mature plants have been found far from areas of current cultivation in the southeastern United States.
Nandina domestica fruits contain cyanogenic glycosides that convert to hydrogen cyanide when ingested. A few berries are apparently not toxic enough to sicken birds, wildlife, and pets. Ingesting larger amounts causes gastric distress. Cedar waxwing (Bombycillacedrorum) death has been reported following overindulging.