It is an upright deciduous small tree or shrub growing up to 10 m (33 ft) in height, native to eastern Russia, China, Korea, and Japan. The bark is rough and gray with prickles. The leaves are alternate, large, 60–120 cm long, and double pinnate. The flowers are produced in large umbels in late summer, each flower small and white. The fruit is a small black drupe. Aralia elata is closely related to the American species Aralia spinosa, with which it is easily confused.