A deciduous large shrub with a history of medicinal uses. An extract of the plant is used in the astringent witch hazel. The bark and leaves were used by native Americans in the treatment of external inflammations. A deciduous large shrub growing to 6 m (rarely to 10 m) tall, with a dense cluster of stems from the base. The bark is light brown, smooth, scaly, inner bark reddish purple. The branchlets are pubescent at first, later smooth, light orange brown, marked with occasional white dots, finally dark or reddish brown. The foliage buds are acute, slightly falcate, downy, light brown. The leaves are oval, 3.7 to 16.7 cm long and 2.5 to 13 cm broad, oblique at the base, acute or rounded at the apex, with a wavy-toothed or shallowly lobed margin, and a short, stout petiole 6 to 15 mm long; the midrib is more or less hairy, stout, with six to seven pairs of primary veins. The young leaves open involute, covered with stellate rusty down; when full grown, they are dark green above, and paler beneath. In fall, they turn yellow with rusty spots. The leaf stipules are lanceolate, acute; they fall soon after the leaf expands. The flowers are pale to bright yellow, rarely orange or reddish, with four ribbon-shaped petals 10 to 20 mm long and four short stamens, and grow in clusters.