It is an upright deciduous small tree or shrub growing up to 10 m (33 ft) in heigh native to eastern Russia, China, Korea, and Japan.
It prefers deep loamy soils in partial shade, but will grow in poorer soils and in full sun. The plant is sometimes cultivated, often in a variegated form, for its exotic appearance.
The bark is rough and gray with prickles. The leaves are alternate, large, 60–120 cm long, and double pinnate. The flowersare produced in large umbels in late summer, each flower small and white. The fruit is a small black drupe.
Aralia elata is closely related to the American species Aralia spinosa, with which it is easily confused.