Growing up to 6m (20ft) high it is a mass of sharp, thorny branches with alternate oval-shaped leaves. In spring the shrub is covered in beautiful white flowers which come out before the leaves. The fruit (sloes) are small, dark and round with a blueish colouration.
Both the flowers and sloes can be eaten, though the flowers must be eaten in moderation due to a toxin compound which is also known to have a laxative affect. The sloes are best picked (it is easiest to do this by beating the bush with a stick and catching the fruit in a basket) after the first frost when the skins are shrivled and look half rotten. Eaten without any prior preperating the sloes are very acid and tart.