A climbing vine with tendrils and aerial roots to 75 feet high.
Leaves alternate, palmately compound (leaflets arise from a single point), with 5 leaflets (rarely 7; or 3 on new growth); leaflets 2–6 inches long with pointed tips and margins coarsely toothed.
Stems reddish-brown, finely hairy; tendrils many-branched, 1½–2 inches long, ending in sucker disks. Older stems, when climbing, develop coarse aerial roots used to attach to tree trunks, walls of buildings, and so on.
Flowering is in late May to August. Clusters arise opposite the leaves near the end of short stems of the season. Clusters are 1½–5 inches long and contain 2–200 flowers. Flowers are greenish, with 5 petals and with 5 stamens that extend beyond the flower.
Fruits ripen in September and October. Clusters are 3–6 inches long, with red stalks. Fruit is a dark purple berry, about 1/4 inch across, globe-shaped, slightly flattened.