Markhamia zanzibarica is a small, upright tree with slender, crooked branches and a soft green crown. It grows about 3.5 m tall but can reach up to 7 or 8 m. Its bark is grey-brown, smooth and glossy when young and flaky in older trees. The young branches have conspicuous lenticels (raised pores on the surface of the bark).The leaves are opposite, compound and imparipinnate, which means it has leaflets on either side of the stalk and ends in a terminal leaflet. It has 2-4 pairs of leaflets, the lowermost pair is the smallest and each pair increases in size towards the terminal leaflet. There may be fine yellowish hairs on both surfaces of the leaf, but the upper surface will lose these hairs by maturity. The leaf margins are entire or finely toothed. The petiolules are almost absent and the petiole is 40-90 mm long.