A deciduous shrub or small tree found in hedges, scrub and open deciduous woodland on free-draining base-rich soils, particularly those overlying chalk and limestone. It is also planted in woodlands, hedgerows and gardens from where it can become well-naturalised in the wild. 0-380 m (Craig-y-Benglog, Merioneth).
The considerable increase in records of this species in N. England, Wales and Ireland since the 1962 Atlas probably results from better recording of a shrub which is easily overlooked when it is not fruiting. In Scotland, at the northern edge of its range, it is particularly difficult to determine whether some populations are native or alien.
European Temperate element; widely naturalised outside its native range.