Golden seal is an herbaceous perennial. Flowers are terminal on a short peduncle (stem) arising from the axil of 2-leaved plants. The peduncle supports a very small leaf. The flower has no petals; 3 sepals fall off as the flower opens, leaving only white stamens and pistils in a rounded cluster that is about ½ inch wide. Blooms April–May. Leaves distinctive, with a crinkled texture, either 1 or at most 2, near the top of the hairy, unbranching stem; leaves large, 5-lobed with palmate veins, the lobes with large, coarse teeth. After flowering, a few basal leaves of the same shape appear. Fruit single, a compact, compound, scarlet berry, resembling a raspberry.