This native perennial plant is about 4-8' tall, producing from its rootstock both basal leaves and fertile shoots with cauline leaves. The basal leaves are separate from the fertile shoots; they help to store energy for next year's fertile shoots. A fertile shoot consists of a single flowering stalk with a whorl of 3 leaves. Each leaf is up to 3' long and across, but palmately cleft into 3-5 narrow lobes with dentate teeth along the margins. The basal leaves have a similar appearance to the cauline leaves; both types of leaves are largely hairless. The central stalk is glabrous or slightly pubescent and unbranched. It terminates into a cyme or short raceme of white flowers. This inflorescence is rather floppy; the flowers open up and become more erect in the presence of sunshine on warm spring days. Each flower is about ½' across when fully open, consisting of 4 white petals, 4 green or purplish green sepals, several stamens with conspicuous yellow anthers, and a single pistil. The petals are lanceolate-oblong and sometimes tinted with pink or light purple. The sepals are oblong and shorter than the petals. The slender pedicels are at least as long as the flowers. The blooming period occurs during mid-spring and lasts about 2 weeks. The flowers are quite fragrant. Each flower is replaced by an elongated seedpod that has a short beak (i.e., a silique); this seedpod is held more or less erect. The seeds are arranged in a single row within the seedpods; they are oval-shaped and somewhat flattened. The root system produces fleshy rhizomes that are jointed and knobby; they are parallel to the surface of the ground and fairly shallow. In addition to these rhizomes and their secondary roots, the root system produces small fleshy tubers. This plant often forms vegetative colonies from its spreading rhizomes; it also reproduces by seed.