This section is from the book "Nature's Garden", by Neltje Blanchan. Also available from Amazon: Nature's Garden; An Aid To Knowledge Of Our Wild Flowers And Their Insect Visitors.
Flowers - White or pink, small, in numerous rounded terminal clusters 1 to 2 in. broad. Calyx 5-lobed; 5 rounded petals inserted in its throat; 20 to 40 stamens; several pistils. Stem: Shrubby, 3 to 10 ft. high, with long, recurved branches, the loose bark peeling off annually in thin strips. Leaves: Simple, heart-shaped or rounded, 3-lobed, toothed. Fruit: 3 to 5 smooth, shining, reddish, inflated, pointed pods.
Preferred Habitat - Rocky banks, riversides.
Flowering Season - June.
Distribution - Canada to Georgia, west to Kansas.
Whether the nurserymen agree with Dr. Gray or not when he says these balls of white flowers possess "no beauty," the fact remains that numbers of the shrubs are sold for ornament, especially a golden-leaved variety. But the charm certainly lies in their fruit. (Opulus = a wild cranberry tree.) When this is plentifully set at the ends of long branches that curve backward, and the bladder-like pods have taken on a rich purplish or reddish hue, the shrub is undeniably decorative. Even the old flowers, after they have had their pollen carried away by the small bees and flies, show a reddish tint on the ovaries which deepens as the fruit forms; and Ludwig states that this is not only to increase the conspicuousness of the shrubs, but to entice unbidden guests away from the younger flowers. Who will tell us why the old bark should loosen every year and the thin layers separate into not nine, but dozens of ragged strips?