Description from Flora of China
Shrubs or small trees, deciduous, to 4 m tall. Young branchlets ferruginous tomentose; old branches reddish, glabrescent. Petiole 4-10(-12) mm, densely pubescent; leaf blade obovate-elliptic, elliptic, or obovate, rarely oblanceolate-elliptic or oblong, 4-14 × 2-5 cm, papery, abaxially pubescent or at least ± pubescent on veins, adaxially glabrous, lateral veins 7-12 pairs, base cuneate or obtuse, margin finely crenate, apex acuminate to caudate-acuminate, or shortly acute. Flowers bisexual, (4 or)5-merous, few or up to 10 crowded in axillary cymes; peduncles 4-10(-15) mm, pubescent. Pedicels 2-4 mm, puberulent. Sepals triangular, equaling calyx tube, fleshy, abaxially sparsely puberulent. Petals obcordate, distinctly shorter than sepals, apex 2-lobed. Stamens equaling petals. Disk thin, outer margin inconspicuous. Ovary globose, glabrous, 3-loculed; style cylindric, undivided; stigma 3-capitate. Drupe red, black, or purple-black at maturity, globose or obovoid-globose, 5.6-6 mm, 6-7 mm in diam.; fruiting pedicel 3-6 mm, glabrous or sparsely puberulent, with 3 one-seeded stones. Fl. May-Aug, fr. Aug-Oct.
The leaves of Rhamnus crenata, especially prior to fruiting, are quite similar to and often confused with those of Rhamnella franguloides, but the latter species differs in having stem and branches without tomentulose terminal buds, stipules persistent, peduncles glabrous, ovary 2-loculed, and style 2-fid.
The roots are poisonous. The roots and bark are often used as an insecticide. The roots and fruit contain yellow dye.
Mountain forests or thickets; below 2000 m. Anhui, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Shaanxi, Sichuan, Taiwan, Yunnan, SW Zhejiang [Cambodia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam].