Hophornbeam copperleaf has round, pubescent cotyledons and true leaves with short hairs and serrated margins. Leaves are simple and alternate. A red coloration may be noticeable where the main leaf veins intersect the petiole. Plants can grow to be approximately 75-100 cm tall.
Hophornbeam copperleaf is monoecious (male and female flowers on the same plant). The male flowers are produced on axillary spikes, while the female flowers are produced on a long terminal spike. Capsules will split open when mature to release the seed. Previous research has reported that hophornbeam copperleaf produced 12,500 seeds when grown without competition, but seed production was greatly reduced (1000 seeds) when grown in competition with soybean. Seeds are about 0.2 cm in diameter, shaped like a raindrop, and have a wrinkled appearance.