This species varies in form from a shrub to large tree (up to 20 m tall). It is dioecious and the flowers are borne in panicles. The fruit is a capsule and the seeds are winged, aiding dispersal by wind. It grows fairly quickly if rainfall is sufficient and the summers are warm. The strong and durable wood contains an aromatic resin that causes violent sneezing. The Xhosa make snuff from it to relieve headaches and use it as a moth repellent. The resin is also applied to warts and is added to a wash to kill ticks on cattle.
It will withstand moderate frost and is very drought-tolerant, but will perform better where rainfall is higher. It appears to prefer shale or limey soils, but grows in most well-drained sandy or rocky soils.