Acer tataricum is a deciduous spreading shrub or small tree growing to 4–12 metres (13–39 ft) tall, with a short trunk up to 20–50 centimetres (7.9–19.7 in) diameter and slender branches. Thebark is thin, pale brown, and smooth at first but becoming shallowly fissured on old plants. Theleaves are opposite and simple, broadly ovate, 4.5–10 centimetres (1.8–3.9 in) long and 3–7 centimetres (1.2–2.8 in) broad, unlobed or with three or five shallow lobes, and matte green above; the leaf margin is coarsely and irregularly toothed; the leaf petiole is slender, often pink-tinged, 2–5 centimetres (0.79–1.97 in) long. The flowers are whitish-green, 5–8 millimetres (0.20–0.31 in) diameter, produced in spreading panicles in spring as the leaves open. The fruit is a paired reddish samara, 10–12 millimetres (0.39–0.47 in) long with a 2–3 centimetres (0.79–1.18 in) wing, maturing in late summer to early autumn.