The bush grows up to 10 m (33 ft) tall. It has deciduous pinnate leaves 10-20 centimeters long. The plants are dioecious, with separate male and female trees. The flowers are apetalous and unisexual, and borne in panicles.
The fruit is adrupe, containing an elongatedseed, which is the edible portion. The seed, commonly thought of as a nut, is aculinary nut, not abotanical nut. The fruit has a hard, creamish exterior shell. The seed has a mauvish skin and light green flesh, with a distinctive flavor. When the fruit ripens, the shell changes from green to an autumnal yellow/red, and abruptly splits part way open. This is known asdehiscence, and happens with an audible pop. The splitting open is a trait that has been selected by humans.Commercialcultivarsvary in how consistently they split open.