Trichilia emetica is an evergreen, medium to large tree, up to 25 m high, with separate male and female plants. It has a dense, spreading crown. Leaflets are dark glossy green above, tips more or less rounded or broadly pointed, lower surface sparsely to densely hairy with principal side veins in 11–18 closely spaced pairs. Flowers are creamy green and sweetly scented. Trichilia emetica flowers in August to November. The fruit is a dehiscent capsule, 18–25 mm in diameter, sharply differentiated from a 5–10 mm long neck. The seeds are black and almost completely enveloped by a bright red aril.