It is a medium-sized deciduous tree, with a trunk up to 1 m diameter and a broad rounded crown. The bark is smooth and greenish-white to greyish-white with characteristic diamond-shaped dark marks on young trees, becoming blackish and fissured at the base of old trees. The leaves are 4-15 cm long, five-lobed, with a thick covering of white scurfy down on both sides but thicker underneath. The flowers are catkins up to 8 cm long, produced in early spring.
It is native from Spain and Morocco through central Europe (north to Germany and Poland) to central Asia.