Pieris japonica grows to 1–4 metres or 3.3–13.1 feet tall, occasionally up to 10 metres, with alternate, simple leaves on brittle stems. The leaves open bronze or red in some cultivars, turning green. The trusses of small urn-shaped flowers are white or pink, appearing early in spring, and providing a decorative effect against the young red leaves. The flowers usually last two or three weeks. The plant is poisonous if consumed by people or animals. The toxicity is a result of the grayanotoxins contained by the flowers and leaves. If flowers and leaves are ingested by humans, symptoms may include salivation, headaches, vomiting, cardiac failure, and death. Cattle, goats, horses, dogs, and cats may suffer similar symptoms after ingesting the leaves or flowers of this plant. The name "andromeda" originated from an earlier genus name for the plant.