These are herbs and shrubs growing upright, sometimes with climbing stems, or spreading prostrate upon the ground. They have woody rhizomes. The leaves have single blades or are pinnate, divided into three leaflets. The plants sometimes produce their leaves after flowering. The flowers are solitary or in racemes of several. The flowers are white or purple, or occasionally yellow. The fruit is a flattened legume pod. The plants' general form, annual stems sprouting from a large perennial rootstock, is thought to be adapted to habitat prone to seasonal wildfire. Some of the species grow to heights of 30 feet. The average Dolichos is between 5 and 10 feet high.