The Cape ash is semi-deciduous. Young branchlets have scattered white lenticels covering their surfaces. The leaves are compound with acutely pointed leaflet tips, from three to thirteen pairs of leaflets per leaf, as well as a terminal one at the tip of the rachis. The leaflet is glossy green, mostly hairless with entire margins and an asymmetric base.
Trees growing in the southern parts of its South African distribution area, the southern and eastern coastal strip, have thickset branchlets showing prominent leaf scars and almost stalkless leaflets. The northern form of this variable species has slender branchlets, stalked leaflets, a wingless rachis and reddish autumn leaf colours. This tree was photographed in the Kruger National Park (Coates Palgrave, 2002; Van Wyk and Van Wyk, 1997).