A shrub or (less often) a small tree with a rather dense crown and short branches.
Leaves opposite, palm-shaped compound with 5 leaflets; leaflets 3–6 inches long, lance-shaped or inverted egg-shaped, coarsely toothed; upper surface shiny, dark green, smooth with a few hairs on the veins; lower surface paler, ranging from smooth to having matted hairs.
Bark smooth on young branches; on old trunks roughened into short plates that flake off in small, thin scales.
Twigs green, gray or brown, drooping with upcurved ends.
Flowers April–June, clustered along an axis 4–8 inches long; flowers red, ¾–1½ inches long, tube-shaped with 2 upright and 2 lateral petal lobes unequal in length; stamens mostly shorter than the upper petal lobes.
Fruits September–November, 1–2 inches wide, leathery, somewhat globe- or egg-shaped, light brown, smooth, finely pitted, splitting into 3 parts; seeds 1–3, rounded or flattened by pressure against each other, shiny, light to dark brown.