Erect shrub or tree 2–15(–18) m. tall, with a peculiar angular vertically ridged trunk (‘as if round originally and has then collapsed’), variously described as ‘fluted’ and ‘spiralig gedrecht’ (Scheffler); branches sometimes leaning and almost scandent; bark usually grey-white and smooth (as if white-washed or painted (Greenway)), peeling off to reveal yellow-green or green surface beneath but occasionally said to be rough (see note); young branches glabrous (see note), longitudinally ridged when dry.
Leaf-blades elliptic, (1.5–)2–12.5(–13.5) cm. long, 1–6.5 cm. wide, rounded to ± acute at the apex, cuneate to rounded at the base, entire, quite smooth and glabrous or with dense minute tubercles above (see note); venation slightly raised and finely reticulate beneath; petiole (1–)1.5–3 cm. long.
Flowers sweet-scented in lax cymes, terminal (usually on lateral snoots) or axillary; peduncle 0.2–1.5 cm. long; pedicels 0.5–4 mm. long.
Male: calyx narrowly campanulate, pubescent inside; tube 3 mm. long, 3-lobed, the lobes obtuse, 1 mm. long; corolla white or yellowish; tube 3–4 mm. long; lobes 4–5, narrowly oblong-lanceolate to obovate-oblong, (2.5–)4.5–5 mm. long, 2 mm. wide; stamens well exserted; filaments (2–)4–5 mm. long with a few hairs on the adnate parts; rudimentary ovary 0.7 mm. diameter; style absent.
Female: calyx more cylindrical, pubescent inside; tube 3 mm. long, not ribbed; lobes 4, ovate, ± with apical tufts of hair; corolla-tube cylindrical, swollen at the base, 3–4 mm. long; lobes oblong-elliptic, 4 mm. long, 1–2 mm. wide; stamens with upper free parts of filaments 1 mm. long, ovary ellipsoid, 2 mm. long, 1.2 mm. diameter; unbranched part of style 2–3 mm. long; primary branches 1 mm. long with 4 stigmatic arms 2.2 mm. long.
Fruiting inflorescence up to 4 cm. long; fruits subglobose to obovoid, 0.8–1(–1.9) cm. long, 6(–13) mm. wide; endocarps woody, 4–8(–11) mm. long, 4–6.5(–8) mm. wide; fruiting calyx cupular, 5 mm. long, 7 mm. wide at throat, ± constricted below.
Female flowers with buds as in male flowers; calyx 4.5–5.5 mm. long, campanulate to cylindrical, thickened at base, indumentum as in male flowers; corolla as in male flowers; staminodes 4–5, filaments 1.5–2.5 mm. long, sterile anthers 0.8–1.0 mm. long; ovary c. 2 mm. long, ± ellipsoid, glabrous; style 6.5–7.5 mm. long, first forked at 2.0–2.5 mm. and with stigmatic branches 3.0–4.0 mm. long, linear, lobed.
Small tree up to 8(10) m. high or sometimes a scandent shrub, dioecious, with hard timber; trunk and branches irregularly fluted, often square in section and even buttressed; bark smooth, grey-green in small specimens, becoming blue-grey and peeling away into thin plate-like flakes; branchlets glabrous, very rarely hairy.
Leaves alternate; petiole 0.8–3.0(4.0) cm. long, canaliculate, glabrous; lamina 5–12 x 2.5–7.0 cm., elliptic or broadly elliptic to obovate, glabrous on the mature leaves, acute to obtuse at apex, cuneate to truncate and often asymmetrical at base, with entire margins, membranous to almost coriaceous, with 5–7 secondary nerves on each side of the midrib, not conspicuous on the lower surface, reticulate.
Cymes arranged in shortly peduncled, slender, terminal and pseudo-axillary pseudo-dichotomous lax 2.5–6.0 cm. long and 3–9 cm. wide panicles; rhachis and branches glabrous or with scattered hairs.
Flowers male or female, on pedicels up to 2 mm. long.
Male flowers with buds c. 5 mm. long, obovoid, glabrous or subglabrous but often with a tuft of minute hairs at the apex; calyx 5–6 mm. long, tubular-campanulate, irregularly 3–5-toothed, membranous, glabrous or subglabrous outside, minutely strigose inside; corolla whitish, with tube 3.5–5.0 mm. long, cylindric, glabrous outside and inside save by a few hairs on the line of the stamens and with 4–5 lobes, 4.5–5.5 x 1.4–1.6 mm., oblong-lanceolate, acute to obtuse, ± reflexed, glabrous; stamens 4–5, inserted at the corolla-throat, filaments 3.5–5.0 mm. long, slender, hairy to the base, anthers 1.5–2.0 mm. long; ovary vestigial without style.