The plant is a vigorous grower and has a rapidly-developing taproot. It may be a bushy shrub 4 to 6 ft (1.2-1.8 m) high, or a tree 10 to 30 or even 40 ft (3-9 or 12 m) tall; erect or wide-spreading, with gracefully drooping branches and downy, zigzag branchlets, thornless or set with short, sharp straight or hooked spines. It may be evergreen, or leafless for several weeks in hot summers. The leaves are alternate, ovate- or oblong-elliptic, 1 to 2 1/2 in (2.5-6.25 cm) long, 3/4 to 1 1/2 in (2-4 cm) wide; distinguished from those of the Chinese jujube by the dense, silky, whitish or brownish hairs on the underside and the short, downy petioles. On the upper surface, they are very glossy, dark-green, with 3 conspicuous, depressed, longitudinal veins, and there are very fine teeth on the margins.
The 5-petalled flowers are yellow, tiny, in 2's or 3's in the leaf axils. The fruit of wild trees is 1/2 to 1 in (1.25-2.5 cm) long. With sophisticated cultivation, the fruit reaches 2 1/2 in (6.25 cm) in length and 1 3/4 in (4.5 cm) in width. The form may be oval, obovate, round or oblong; the skin smooth or rough, glossy, thin but tough, turns from light-green to yellow, later becomes partially or wholly burnt-orange or red-brown or all-red. When slightly underripe, the flesh is white, crisp, juicy, acid or subacid to sweet, somewhat astringent, much like that of a crabapple. Fully ripe fruits are less crisp and somewhat mealy; overripe fruits are wrinkled, the flesh buff-colored, soft, spongy and musky. At first the aroma is applelike and pleasant but it becomes peculiarly musky as the fruit ages. There is a single, hard, oval or oblate, rough central stone which contains 2 elliptic, brown seeds, 1/4 in (6 mm) long.