The species has a complex taxonomic history, and has undergone several name changes since its first description by American mycologist Lewis David de Schweinitz in 1822. The caps typically range between 0.8 to 3.5 inches in diameter, with a flattened to somewhat funnel-shaped top surface and a wavy margin. The cap surface is dry, slightly tomentose (covered with a layer of fine hairs), and a deep and bright orange-yellow color, with older specimens fading to more yellow in age; the extreme margins of the cap are a paler yellow, and typically curve downward in young specimens. Fruit bodies can reach a height of 4.7 inches. The hymenophore (the spore-bearing surface) is initially smooth and without wrinkles, but gradually develops channels or ridges, and what appear to be very shallow gills that are vein-like, and less than 1 mm wide. The color is pale yellow, and is continuous with the surface of the stem. The stem is rather plump and stout, 0.6 to 1.8 inches long and 0.2 to 0.7 inches thick, more or less cylindrical, tapering downwards towards the base. Internally, the stems are either stuffed (filled with cotton-like mycelia) or solid. Rarely, fruit bodies may be clumped together with stems joined at the base; in these cases there are usually no more than three fused stems. The flesh is solid to partly hollow (sometimes due to insect larvae), with a pale yellow color.
Typically found growing solitary, in groups or in clusters under hardwood trees, the fungus produces fruit bodies in the summer and autumn.