Dypsis lutescens grows 6–12 m (20–39 ft) in height. Multiple stems emerge from the base. The leaves are arched, 2–3 m (6 ft 7 in–9 ft 10 in) long, and pinnate, with 40-60 pairs of leaflets. It bears panicles of yellow flowers in summer. Offsets can be cut off when mature enough, as a propagation method.
It is grown as an ornamental plant in gardens in tropical and subtropical regions, and elsewhere indoors as a houseplant. It has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.
One of several common names, "butterfly palm", refers to the leaves which curve upwards in multiple stems to create a butterfly look.
In its introduced range, this plant acts as a supplier of fruit to some bird species which feed on it opportunistically, such as Pitangus sulphuratus, Coereba flaveola and Thraupis sayaca species in Brazil