It is a deciduous large shrub growing to 4 m tall, spreading by stoloniferous root sprouts. The leaves are oval, 7-13 cm long and 6.7-13 cm broad, cuneate to slightly oblique at the base, acute or rounded at the apex, with a wavy-toothed or shallowly lobed margin, and a short, stout petiole 7-15 mm long; they are dark green above, and glaucous beneath, and often persist into the early winter. The flowers are deep to bright red, rarely yellow, with four ribbon-shaped petals 7-10 mm long and four short stamens, and grow in clusters; flowering begins in mid winter and continues until early spring. The fruit is a hard woody capsule 10-15 mm long, which splits explosively at the apex at maturity one year after pollination, ejecting the two shiny black seeds up to 10 m distant from the parent plant. Although often occurring with the related Hamamelis virginiana, it does not intergrade, and can be distinguished by its flowering in late winter, not fall.