The leaves are opposite, and palmately lobed with 7-11 lobes, almost circular in outline, 3-14 cm long and broad, and thinly hairy on the underside; the lobes are pointed and with coarsely toothed margins. The leaves turn bright yellow to orange-red in fall. The flowers are small, 6–9 mm diameter, with a dark red calyx and five short greenish-yellow petals; they are produced in open corymbs of 4-20 together in spring. The fruit is a two-seeded samara, each seed 8-10 mm diameter, with a spreading wing 2–4 cm long.
Vine Maple trees can bend over easily. Sometimes, this can cause the top of the tree to grow into the ground and send out a new root system, creating a natural arch.
It is occasionally cultivated outside its native range as an ornamental tree, from Juneau, Alaska and Ottawa, Ontario to Huntsville, Alabama, and also in northwestern Europe. It is closely related to Acer japonicum (Fullmoon Maple) and Acer pseudosieboldianum (Korean Maple) from eastern Asia, and can be difficult to distinguish from these species in cultivation.