Common names include the Smoke Tree, Smokebush or Caribbean Copper Plant.
It is an evergreen plant that can be grown as a shrub around 5 m high but also as a tree up to 15 or 20 m.
The bark on the trunk is a pale brown but the smaller branches are red to dark purple.
The leaves, on red petioles up to 9 cm long are in whorls of three.
The elliptic, ovate or rounded blades are up to around 6 cm long and 4 cm wide.
The tip is blunt, the edge entire and the midvein is prominent on both surfaces.
Young leaves are red on both sides while older ones are coppery, purplish or burgundy.
Branched inflorescences are at the end of the main and near terminal side branches.
Each terminal branch in the inflorescence has a small cyathium on a hairy peduncle.
The peduncle is about 2 cm long and there may be small bracts at the base.
The cyathium consists of an involucre holding the flowers.
The bell-shaped 4 mm long hairy involucre has 5 (4 to 6) small lobes on the rim that partly cover the stamens.
Between the involucral lobes are greenish semi-circular to oblong nectiferous glands.
The glands have a white petal-like appendages on their outer surface that has a fringed edge.
Inside the involucre are numerous male flowers consisting of a stamen surrounded by hairy linear bracteoles.
The central female flower is on a hairy green pedicel.
It consists of a 3-loculed ovary with 3 short white styles that divide into 2 so there are 6 stigmas.
The pedicel elongates as the fruit matures.
The smooth, 3-chambered capsule is around 5 mm across with one brownish seed in each locule.