Tree (rarely a shrub) to 25 m, dbh 60 cm. Branchlets brown, glabrous, with distinctive lenticels; at maturity, bark greyish brown. Stipules absent. Leaves deciduous, 8–14 × 3.5–7.5 cm, elliptical to ovate or oblong, papery, upper surface glabrous, lower surface with pubescence limited to the axils of veins, (two to) three to four secondary veins on each side of the midvein, margins finely serrate, apex acuminate to caudate; petiole deeply furrowed, 0.9–1.5(–2) cm long, brown and glabrous. Flowers arranged in densely clustered cymes. Infructescences solitary, unbranched, stout, glabrous, 1.7–3.5 cm long. Fruit 0.9–1.5 cm, orange-yellow. Flowering April, fruiting September to October (China). Fu et al. 2003. Distribution CHINA: Fujian, northern and western Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hubei, northwest Hunan, southern Jiangxi, Sichuan, eastern Yunnan, eastern Zhejiang. Habitat Forested valleys between 600 and 1400 m asl. Celtis vandervoetiana typically occurs as an understorey species in shady areas. USDA Hardiness Zone 6. Conservation status Not evaluated.
The only collection of Celtis vandervoetiana traced is that made by the Sino-American Expedition to China in 1981 (under the number SABE 1490), in the Shennongjia Forest District of Hubei, at 2000 m. In contrast to most Celtis, this species seems to require a shaded site, and the field notes record that it was growing in the bottom of a canyon, along the Yingyu River. There is certainly a marked difference between the two trees of C. vandervoetiana at Kew, one of which is growing in full sun and does not look happy, with yellowish leaves; the other, by contrast, is in a shadier site and is much better, with healthy green foliage. This latter specimen has made a very wide, low (3.5 m) tree, with several trunks bearing spreading branches, noted on a hot June day to create a good pool of shade. It is also cultivated at the Arnold Arboretum.