This tree is 50-100' tall at maturity, forming a relatively stout central trunk and an oblongoid to globoid crown. Trees in open areas have wider crowns than those in forested areas. The major branches of the crown are ascending (toward the top), widely spreading (toward the middle), or descending (toward the bottom). Trunk bark of mature trees is longitudinally furrowed with flat-topped ridges and rough-textured; it is mostly gray, except at the bottom of the furrows, where it is partially brown. The ridges are occasionally interrupted by horizontal fissures. Branch bark is gray and smooth with small inconspicuous lenticels, while twigs are reddish brown to light green and terete. Both the emergent leaves and their shoots are yellowish green and canescent to pubescent when they first appear during the spring, but they later become glabrous. At the base of each newly emerging leaf, there is a thickened deciduous bract that is greenish or reddish yellow, oblong in shape, and canescent. These emergent bracts wither away a short time later. Alternate leaves are arranged in two-ranks along first-year twigs. Mature leaf blades are typically 4-6" long and 3-4½" across, although the leaf blades of saplings growing in the shade can be up to 8" long and 6" across. Each leaf blade is orbicular cordate, cordate, or ovate-cordate with sharply serrated edges; the base of each blade is cordate to nearly truncate. The upper surface of the leaf blade is medium to dark green and glabrous, while the lower surface is pale green and mostly glabrous, except for small tufts of hair in the axils of the veins. Leaf venation is mostly pinnate, except for the lowest 1-2 pairs of lateral veins, which are palmate because they originate from the base of the blade. Drooping cymes of flowers about 1-3" across develop from the axils of the leaves. The peduncle of each cyme is about 4" long; the lower half of the peduncle adheres to about the middle of an elongated floral bract (about 4" long and ¾" across), while its upper half is naked. This floral bract is light green and linear-oblong to linear-oblanceolate in shape. The peduncle divides into pedicels with 5-20 flowers. Individual flowers are about ½" across, consisting of 5 cream-colored petals, 5 cream-colored sepals, a pistil with a white style, and several stamens with yellow anthers. The blooming period occurs during the early summer for about 2 weeks. The flowers are fragrant. Fertile flowers are replaced by small nutlets about ¼" across. At maturity during the fall, the nutlets are gray-brown, globoid, and canescent; they are dry, hard, and usually single-seeded. Because of the persistent bracts on their peduncles, the nutlets are distributed by the wind, although they usually don't travel far from the mother tree. The woody root system consists of widely spreading lateral roots. The deciduous leaves become yellow to yellowish green during the fall.