They grow up to large evergreen trees of 40–50 m (130–160 ft) tall, and have alternately arranged, pinnate leaves.
Manila elemi, when recent, occurs in transparent, soft, granular masses, consisting of a solution of solid resin in essential oil. Externally it has a light, canary-yellow color, and, as found in commerce, is largely solidified, presenting an opaque and granular fracture, due to the crystallization of the resin. Chips and other foreign substances are often found in the solid fragments. When wetted with a little alcohol, elemi readily disintegrates, showing a multitude of small, crystalline needles. It melts easily, a transparent fluid resulting. It has an aromatic, warm, acrid taste, and a fragrant odor, resembling that of the terebinthinates, the drug in many respects closely resembling the latter class of substances. It is insoluble in water, partly soluble in cold, and completely soluble in hot alcohol; easily soluble also in oil of turpentine and ether.