This plant has been in our front yard, in a place where a shrub fits well, for many years. Maybe it is one of the many shrubs my wife purchased over the years. More likely it is a volunteer that looked right, so I didn't pull it.
Last few years, I have pruned it aggressively to get it down each year to about 5 feet high in late December or early January when its leaves drop. It is the last deciduous plant in the area to drop its leaves each year.
I probably never paid attention to it before in early spring, so I don't recall seeing these things emerge before the leaves. I don't have any idea what these structures are (I assume some reproductive role similar to flowers).
Is it a shrub? Is it a tree that I forced to stay shrub size with pruning?
Without leaves, a photo wouldn't show the whole plant very well. It is just thin branches with a few of these things on them. So I just provided this close up of the unusual (so far as I know) structures.