Malosma laurina is a large, rounded evergreen shrub or small tree growing 10–15 feet tall. The leaves have a taco shell shape. When flattened, they have the shape of laurel leaves. The tips of the stems, stem attaching the leaf to the stems (petiole), the veins of the leaves, and the edges of the leaves, are a glowing reddish color all year long. The fragrant leaves and stems give chaparral its characteristic fragrance. The leaves and stems are full of volatile compounds that give it the scent. Laurel sumac has adapted to fire return intervals of 50-100+ years in the chaparral areas where it grows, and after a fire burns its above ground parts, a large burl underground resprouts new stems and leaves.