A large tree with a massive trunk, a broad, open, irregular crown and large, crooked, spreading, white branches.
Leaves alternate, simple, 4–8 inches long and broad or larger; with 3–5 broad, shallow lobes with coarse teeth, each lobe tip pointed; upper surface bright green; lower surface whitish, hairy; leaf stalk hairy, with a leafy appendage at the base.
Bark smooth, greenish on young trunks, turning reddish-brown to gray; bark sheds in thin plates to reveal the distinctive white new bark.
Twigs slender, shiny, zigzag; buds enclosed by the base of the leaf stalk.
Flowers April–June; male and female flowers on the same tree with numerous flowers in globe-shaped clusters. Male flower cluster red or yellow, about 3/8 inch in diameter; female flower cluster red, about 1/2 inch in diameter.
Fruits September–October, persist through winter, solitary, rounded, dry, 1-1½ inches wide, drooping on a stalk 3–6 inches long; ball composed of many closely packed, long, narrow fruits.