This native perennial plant is a woody shrub or small tree up to 30' tall that branches occasionally. The upper stems (or branchlets) are covered with dense brown hairs, while the lower stems (trunk or branches) are brown, hairless, and woody. The short trunk is up to 9" across in diameter. The alternate compound leaves are up to 2' long (if not longer); they are oddly pinnate, consisting of 9-31 leaflets. The petioles and central stalks of these compound leaves have scattered brown hairs; the central stalks are often tinted red. The leaflets are up to 5" long and 1" across; they are oblong-lanceolate and serrated along the margins. The upper surface of each leaf is shiny and dark green (becoming red or burgundy during the fall), while the lower surface is pale white. Each leaflet is nearly sessile at the base, and tapers gradually to an elongated tip. Some of the upper stems terminate in individual panicles of greenish yellow flowers up to 1' long and ½' across. Each flower is about ¼" across, consisting of 5 spreading petals, a calyx with 5 lobes, 5 stamens, and a central pistil. Usually, the flowers of Staghorn Sumac are perfect (they have both stamens & pistils), although a few plants produce unisexual flowers only (either all staminate flowers or all pistillate flowers). The blooming period occurs during early to mid-summer and lasts about 2-3 weeks. Each flower is replaced by a globoid drupe about 1/6" long, which is densely covered with bright red hairs. This drupe contains a single seed with a hard coating. The drupes mature during the fall and persist through the winter; if not eaten, they eventually become dark brown. The root system is woody and can produce vegetative clones from long runners. This plant occasionally forms colonies.