Winged sumac is a slender-branched shrub to small tree with a rounded top; it forms thickets from root sprouting.
Leaves are alternate, feather-compound, 5–12 inches long, central stem hairy and broadly winged; leaflets 7–17, tip pointed, base ending at a sharp angle, margin usually without teeth; upper surface dark green, shiny; lower surface paler, hairy; broken leaves and leaf stalk bleed a white sticky sap. Leaves turn bright red in fall.
Bark is thick, greenish, brown to gray, some shallow grooves, pores red and prominent.
Twigs are brittle, green to reddish-brown, hairy at first, smooth later, bleed a white sticky sap when broken; pores dark.
Flowers late May–July, both male and female flowers in dense clusters at the end of new growth, on separate plants; clusters 6–8 inches long; flowers numerous, about 1/8 inch across; petals 5, greenish-white.
Fruits September, compact clusters, erect or drooping, persistent; fruit round, flattened, red, hairy, about 1/8 inch wide, 1-seeded.
Similar species: There are four species of sumacs in Missouri.