Golden rain tree is a small to medium-sized, fast-growing tree, developing a round head and wide spread.
Leaves are alternate, feather-compound (sometimes the larger, middle leaflets are themselves compound), to 18 inches long; each leaf has 7–17 leaflets that are irregularly lobed and deeply toothed; emerging leaves are bronze, pinkish, or purplish; autumn leaves are dull yellow.
Bark is light grayish-brown, becoming ridged and furrowed.
Flowers June–July, in large, showy, stalked clusters of small yellow flowers; the falling flowers, which can form a carpet under the tree, inspired its common name.
Fruits are inflated, papery, 3-parted capsules, 1¼– 2½ inches long, that somewhat resemble Chinese lanterns. Green at first, they turn brown and persist through fall and winter.
Note: There are several cultivars available through the nursery trade, and these differ slightly in some characteristics. Because it is invasive, it is not recommended for planting.