One of the easiest shrubs to identify throughout the year (unless mistaken for Toxicodendron vernix (formerly Rhus vernix), poison sumac, in the absence of mature fruit) smooth sumac has a spreading, open-growing shrub growing up to 3 metres (9.8 ft) tall, rarely to 5 metres (16 ft). The leaves are alternate, 30–50 cm long, compound with 11-31 leaflets, each leaflet 5–11 cm long, with a serrated margin. The leaves turn scarlet in the fall. The flowers are tiny, green, produced in dense erect panicles 10–25 centimetres (3.9–9.8 in) tall, in the spring, later followed by large panicles of edible crimson berries that remain throughout the winter. The buds are small, covered with brown hair and borne on fat, hairless twigs. The bark on older wood is smooth and grey to brown.