It is a shrub growing to 1-2 m tall. The leaves are in opposite pairs, 5-10 cm long and broad, three- to five-lobed, the lobes with a serrated margin. The flowers are white with five small petals, produced in terminal cymes 4-8 cm diameter. The fruit is a small red to purple drupe 4-8 mm long. It attracts butterflies and birds. The Viburnum acerifolium is a larval host to the Spring Azure butterfly.
The scientific and common names refer to the superficial similarity of the leaves to those of some maples (Acer); the plant is occasionally mistaken for young maples, but is readily distinguished by the flowers and fruit; the viburnum produces small, purple berries, while maples produce dry, winged seeds.
- "Viburnum acerifolium". NatureServe Explorer. NatureServe. Retrieved 2007-07-06.